Ever been inspired by a sportsman to attempt to copy what they do? Formula One fan Andy Donnelly did just that when he competed in Jenson Button annual charity triathlon after the British Grand Prix!

Here’s how he got on.

As a big F1 fan I was more used to sitting on the sofa watching Jenson Button race, but never did I envisage I would ever end up racing him myself!

It was through F1 in 2014 that a friend, who is a seasoned triathlete, mentioned the Jenson Button Triathlon as a way to help me get fit and set a goal. Having never swam, let alone in open water, never cycled for 10 years or owned a bike, and my last serious run was at least 20 years ago, it would be tough. I was also tipping 19 stone at this point, and knew I needed to do something. I was going to try to go from “pie-athlete” to triathlete!

Entries for the race opened in February, and once signed up, I set about getting a bike, buying some running shoes, and braving the water by organising some swimming lessons. My attitude at this point was if I’m tired I can slow down on the bike, and walk if I can’t run. However I didn’t fancy sinking if I couldn’t swim. So getting swimming lessons was a priority. My eventual goal was just to cross the line and get the medal.

Unlike a normal triathlon the Jenson Button Trust is set up into a F1 style qualifying and main race, so effectively you get to do two triathlons in one day. This was something I did not realise when I signed up at first, however I was determined to not let this stop me.

The first triathlon distance is a 200m swim in a lake, 10K bike ride and a 2.5K run, this is known as a super sprint. This was in the morning, with a break before you do it all again after lunch.

Each race had a number of waves, or groups, to set off in, with Jenson in the elite wave which set off 30 mins later than everyone else.

It didn’t take him long to pass me on the bike stage, where the type of bike Jenson uses is made from carbon fibre and very light and aerodynamic. A bit like an F1 car – the lighter and more aerodynamic, the faster it is. In fact, I think the bike he uses is made in conjunction with McLaren, so I had no chance on my clunky bike. However it was great fun to be able to cycle out to Derby and back.


The afternoon race was a repeat from the morning’s event, however this time the elite race was twice the distance. Needless to say my tactic of not qualifying in the top 50 worked well, and I got to compete in the ‘Wooden Spoon’ race instead.

As I said, my original goal was just to get across the line and get the medal, but I achieved much more than that. I have become fitter, more healthy and lost just over 1.5 stones in 6 months training. I did both races in a time of 1 hour and 4 minutes, which I was pleased about.

Once the racing had finished, there was an opportunity to see this years McLaren F1 car, have a go in a simulator and race around Silverstone, and get to see a McLaren P1 up close. There was plenty of food available and opportunities to buy triathlon kit.

Continuing the F1 theme, the prize presentation was hosted by ‘Crofty’, David Croft from Sky Sports F1, introducing first Jenson to tell us a bit more about how the day went, and thank us for taking part and raising money for his trust. The trophies and medals were something special too as they had been made in conjunction with a local business that provides parts to a well known F1 team.

The day was topped for me by meeting Jenson, and getting a Mini Helmet and McLaren cap signed.

On a serious note, the race is set up for Jenson Button Triathlon Trust, which organises the event over the weekend for charity, this year it was Cancer Research UK. I’m sure a lot of money was raised on the day too, as well as in sponsorship of triathletes.

Will I be back next year? You bet I will, and I will be beating my time!

If you have ever thought about giving it a go yourself, then I would encourage you to enter and have a go next year. Maybe you could beat Jenson?