Friday 5: champion triathlete Helen Jenkins

Helen Jenkins is a two-times world triathlon champ
Helen Jenkins is a two-times world triathlon champ and a mother-of-two. (Image credit: Ryan Sosna-Bowd)

Helen Jenkins is one of Britain’s most celebrated and successful triathletes. She has competed at three different Olympic Games and achieved more ITU World Triathlon Series podium finishes than any other British woman. She has won the ITU world title twice. 

Helen, who has two children with husband and fellow British Triathlon Olympian and coach Marc Jenkins, achieved what was the highest performance ever by a British woman at an Olympic Games at London 2012. She was fifth. 

She is 36 and lives in Bridgend, Wales.

If you could only keep one item out of all your outdoor gear, which would you keep and why?

Waterproof trail shoes. I get really cold feet so having waterproof trail shoes has been a game changer for me. I used to run or walk in regular trainers and I didn’t realise how much easier it makes life having a specific trail shoe.

What's your pet peeve in the outdoors/adventure space?

Helen is a convert to waterproof trail running shoes

Helen is a convert to waterproof trail running shoes. (Image credit: Ryan Sosna-Bowd)

Grumpy people! I have been brought up when riding, running and hiking to give fellow adventurers a quick nod or hello; an acknowledgement that we are doing something shared. 

It might seem kind of ridiculous that I get a bit annoyed when you don’t get that nod back or get ignored but I do. 

The sporting community is such a lovely supportive one in general and I always try to give fellow runners/cyclist/hikers a hello.

Helen trains for triathlon

Helen trains for triathlon. (Image credit: Ryan Sosna-Bowd)

If you could be instantly transported to the start of any adventure, what would it be, where and why?

I would love to cycle the California section of the 101 Highway. We have spent quite a lot of time in  Southern California training for triathlon and I would love to explore more of the coast. The scenery looks stunning! 

I would love to combine the trip with surfing. I’m not a great surfer but I try hard and would love to get better. A cycling/surfing adventure would be perfect.

We're sitting round a campfire. Do you have a funny or entertaining story about one of your adventures?

I once got attacked by an angry Hungarian man with an umbrella in Budapest while riding my bike. 

We were In Budapest for the World Series final of triathlon. We were finishing up a ride and riding around slightly lost in the pouring rain looking for the swimming pool.

I think I must have cycled closer to the man and his dog on the pavement than I thought but he chased me as we were going slow trying to figure out where we were. I got hit a few times with the umbrella before I managed to get away. 

My friend and I were in hysterics riding away. It was so unexpected and luckily didn’t hurt or affect my race.

Running is one of the three triathlon sports

Running is one of the three triathlon sports. (Image credit: Ryan Sosna-Bowd)

Is there any gear that's on your shopping list at the moment? 

A tent that fits our family of four. Our kids are three and one and we haven’t taken them camping yet. I would love to get a tent this year and take them on some adventures, preferably near the beach.

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.