A Leyland super-gran has completed the ultimate test of sporting endurance on a huge European stage.
Young grandmother, 44-year-old Heidi Atkins has just completed the Ironman triathlon in Carinthia, Austria.
The World Triathlon Corporation event included a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bicycle ride and a 26.2 mile marathon run and was Heidi’s first Ironman.
And the mother-of-one, who could barely swim 18 months ago, is already looking for her next challenge after completing the epic event.
Heidi, of Leyland, said: “It is a great feeling, I love the challenge, it tests fitness to the extreme.
“I could have entered the Bolton Ironman in two weeks but I’ve seen Bolton and the surrounding area and I wanted to do something different.
“Someone mentioned Austria and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity of a week away and competing in the beautiful surroundings.
“Ironman wasn’t initially on the cards, my background is in running, but I’m already looking for my next challenge, possibly an ultra run, an extra long marathon.”
The athlete finished in 2,250th place overall but she was the 256th fastest female with a time of 14:23:29 across all three disciplines.
Heidi was one of nine members of Preston based triathlon club Tri-Preston that took part in the Austrian competition.
She joined the club 18 months ago after her masseuse recommended the club and the club have taught her how to swim.
Heidi said: “I’m a keen runner and when I went for a massage my masseuse kept telling me about the club, I buckled and joined and I haven’t looked back since.
“I can run and cycle but I couldn’t really swim when I joined, I could only do breast stroke.
“But two members of the club Emily Rhodes and Jo McWilliams helped me learn front crawl.
“The Ironman swim was quite scary, 3,000 people jumping in a lake in Austria to attempt a mammoth swim is quite daunting but I did it.
“The views on the bike ride were incredible. It was a great place to complete my first Ironman.
“It’s such a great club, it’s like having another family. Everyone supports each other and I couldn’t have done it without my coach, Ian Murphy.
“Everyone had some well-earned cake and a few gin and tonics after the race – it makes the pain worthwhile.”
Heidi was cheered on at home by her daughter Kimberley, granddaughter Eloise and her mum Jan – who is a fell-runner and her inspiration.
She said: “My mum is one of my inspirations, – she is still fell running now.
“I didn’t realise how many people were supporting me until I got out to Austria.
“My friends and family were tracking my progress on the internet.
“It was great to know people were behind me and it was great to complete the course.”