Pushing to the limits: how Octopus employees tackled the London Triathlon together
16 August 2019
In July, a brave group of 21 Octopus employees took part in the London Triathlon – one of the world’s most popular triathlons with more than 11,000 participants. This test of endurance takes place every year in London’s ExCeL Centre, and sees individuals and teams run, swim and bike their way through the capital. It was a momentous day, as some of the participants from Octopus told us.
As a dedicated runner, Uliana Kuzmis from Octopus Real Estate was taking part in her second London Triathlon wearing the Octopus colours. And she felt that this year’s event was the best ever.
“Two years ago, I was one of the few participating in a seriously elite event, and I’m by no means an athlete. This year, it was all about people coming together to achieve something wonderful. I had a completely different experience and became so close to my other team members. At the end of it, I didn’t just cross the finish line, I made some new friendships.”
About the events
To take part in the London Triathlon, competitors had to choose from two distinct competitions: Sprint or Olympic. The Sprint division faced a 750-metre swim, 20km cycle before finishing with a 5km run. The Olympic competition was considerably tougher, with competitors undertaking a 1,500-metre swim, followed by a 40km bike ride, and topped off with a 10km run.
First stop – training
In order to take on a triathlon, you need to prepare yourself – physically and mentally – for it. Each member of the Octopus team had to find time to dedicate themselves to the event. That meant early mornings, long evenings, and serious hard work. The disciplines varied: some people were runners, some were cyclists. It was hard to find a suitable time to train together – but everyone made sure to put the work in.
Uliana had a number of early starts to get a run in before work: “It all comes down to training. You know you want to achieve something and the training you put in makes all the difference. If you have the discipline to get up out of bed to go for a run, you’re going to see that discipline permeate through all aspects of your life.”
A sense of community
One of the most notable outcomes from this year’s event was the close bond formed between the group. ‘Team Octopus’, made up of 21 people from different departments and businesses within Octopus, was divided into seven smaller teams of three competitors each, in order to tackle the triathlon events together.
Although none of the competitors knew much about their team-mates to begin with, they became each other’s key lifelines during the event.
Uliana was in a team with George Rook and Charlotte Fairhurst, who both work in the Octopus Investments Strategic Partnerships team. Although Uliana had never met her new team-mates before, team spirit came naturally: “When you’re undertaking an event of this scale, you bond like nothing else. It was crazy. The support from everyone was there from the beginning. Seeing the Octopus branded t-shirts while running was like a moment of relief. You knew people had your back and it motivated me to push forward. You really felt like you were in this together.”
Team-mate Charlotte was in full agreement: “The team spirit was amazing. Seeing my parents and colleagues cheering me from the sidelines put a huge smile on my face. It felt like a great achievement. Running across the finish line together with Uliana at the end was a great feeling.”
Team “Fat, Fit, Fast”
Richard Barnes, alongside his Octopus Investment colleagues Paul Latham and Jess Franks from the Business Line Management team came together this year. As Richard explains: “The BLM team has put forward a triathlon team every year since the event started at Octopus. This year, Jess did the swim, Paul did the cycle and I did the run. We had a self-imposed team name of “Fit, Fat, Fast”, but the name was Paul’s decision, and not other team-mates being mean!”
Team bonding didn’t just end with the employees on the track. Octopus employees came down to cheer as loud as they could for their colleagues. It’s one of the key things that kept the team going. Runner James Rochefort explains: Being part of a wider Octopus group really made the event worth doing. As we were all competing we could constantly see a big group of Octopus people cheering us on from the sidelines. In our team (“NotFastJustFurious”) we had Jack Cracknell doing the cycle and Max Weitzmann doing the swim. They were a great laugh and, as I finished my run, they jumped in to sprint alongside me”.
For Richard Barnes, the best thing about the event was having the chance to rally colleagues and support each other as a team: “These are the sort of company events where you genuinely get to meet people from outside of your day to day across the business with a similar interest. There is usually lots to talk about and everyone is buzzing after.”
Gearing up for next year’s event
With continued support from Octopus, participation in next year’s triathlon is only going to get bigger. As Uliana says: “Team building is important, and sporting events are the best way to create a sense of community. It’s an opportunity for people in different departments to work together and get to know each other. We all had this experience of something so big and emotional together. Now, I can chat to them about anything at all.”
And you don’t need to be an athlete to be a part of it. Regardless of your ability, the team will support you and encourage you to get to the finish line. Uliana never thought she would be able to do it, and now she’s completed two triathlons in two years: “There’s nothing more humbling than admitting you’re not the strongest or the fittest. But you really don’t need to be. Everyone is welcome to join in and the support you receive helps you train harder than you ever thought you could. All it takes is to say yes!”
In the words of James Rochefort: “It can be really tough to find something that ticks all the boxes of being healthy, fun, and leaving you feeling you’ve actually achieved something. The London Triathlon definitely ticked all three. Everyone had a really good time, plus it was very visible how much we were supporting each other and how much fun we were having.”