ALCATRAZ BOUND: Mark Elliott is preparing for his attempt at the Escape From Alcatraz triathlon 		  TM pic
ALCATRAZ BOUND: Mark Elliott is preparing for his attempt at the Escape From Alcatraz triathlon TM pic

British triathlete Mark Elliott is heading to San Francisco to take part in the prestigious Escape From Alcatraz event. Martin Paul reports

A TEAM GB triathlete from the dale has seen a decade-long dream come true after being selected as one of only 2,000 participants in this year’s Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, in San Francisco.

Mark Elliott, who has previously qualified for the European and World triathlon championships, will be diving into San Francisco Bay on Sunday, June 5.

The 65-year-old started in the sport about 25 years ago as a way of losing weight but excelled to the point where he qualified for the British championship in Turkey in 2013 and surprised himself by coming fifth.

He said: “I was absolutely stunned. When I qualified, I thought I’d be last, but I had quite a good race.”

Sadly, he was injured for the following European Championship but still went on to the World Triathlon Challenge in Australia in 2018, where he ended in the top 30.

Mr Elliott said: “It was fantastic – all the elites were there. Coming back on the plane we were sat with all the greats.”

Before retiring Mr Elliott helped operate the “traditional filling station” on Galgate, where Niche Living is currently situated. He trains six days a week, but favours swimming most out of the three disciplines.

He said: “I love swimming. I always come top two in my swimming.”

It is also swimming that will kick off the event starting at the island which was home to Alcatraz, a high security prison until 1963.

He said: “It is amazing the sight of it – they lead all 2,000 of you up onto this old-fashioned steam paddleboat. And in eight minutes you all dive in. You then swim from the island to the shore.”

The swim is followed by an 18-mile bike ride and then a run of six miles.

His ambition to do the unique challenge was piqued in 2010 when his wife Kathleen bought him a ticket to take part in an Alcatraz swim as a Christmas present.

Mr Elliott said: “I have always wanted to do it since then, but it is so hard to get into because it is so over-subscribed. It is a lottery really. Then in 2019, whoa, I was in, but then Covid came and I couldn’t go.”

Fortunately, he was able to defer his participation to this year, and will be leaving for America a week before the event to acclimatise and take in the sights.