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Pro triathlete James Hadley may be better known for his appearance on a reality TV dating show in his native England, but he’s hoping that will soon change. The Boulder transplant, who trains with the likes of Craig Alexander, Matt Reed, Tim O’Donnell and Leon Griffin, has high hopes for the 2013 season.
Hadley grew up in a working class family just outside London, and got his athletic start in the pool. “I was hyperactive, so my aunt suggested I start swimming to get rid of some pent-up energy,” he says. “I was 7 or 8; it’s where it all started.”
He was soon competing at the national level, traveling to meets around England. He discovered a natural running talent not long after: “I was breaking run records on the school track,” he says. His dad saw a triathlon on TV and convinced his 16-year-old son to enter a race. “I won it by quite a lot and thought, ‘Great, this is what I’m going to do,’” says Hadley.
But the distractions of youth—“I started to get into girls and hanging out with friends”—interrupted his athletic trajectory, and at 22 his pro dream had dwindled and he was working in construction.
“I saw guys I used to race with and thought I could have been there, but instead I’m hanging around with these overweight guys on the building site,” he says. “I decided to try to make a go of it again.”
He was accepted into Bath University and started training in earnest with the triathlon team. During a visit to Australia he met coach Siri Lindley, who was “instrumental” in motivating him to take his training to the next level. He moved to Boulder to train with Lindley and still lives there today.
Training with the sport’s biggest names, Hadley, 33, says he’s learned some valuable lessons from a “brilliant” Craig Alexander. “Every session I did I tried to put everything into it, and then I’d just burn out,” says Hadley, who’s finished on the podium at 5150 Kansas and New Orleans and was recently fourth at Rev3 Wisconsin. “He told me to slow down, back off and be consistent. I wanted to race all the time in training and then I’d get injured. I calmed myself down and am smarter about it now.”
In 2011, Hadley flew home to England to appear on the reality TV show “Take Me Out,” where he had his pick of 30 women, all vying for a date with him on a remote island. Though there was no love match (“She turned out to be, like, an actual, real witch!”), the experience gave Hadley a taste of celebrity. It’s a far stretch from his current life.
To make ends meet, Hadley, who doesn’t have any formal sponsors, doesn’t shy away from tough manual labor, including getting up at 3 a.m. to shovel snow for seven hours straight or clean gutters. But as his results improve, he’s hoping to fully dedicate himself to triathlon.
“I’m confident I’ll be showing on the podium a lot more.”