Ted opened the heavy wooden door of The Horseshoes Pub, instantly aware of the noise and chatter filling it. He surveyed the bar area and saw his brother Andrew waving. “Over here!” he shouted.
Ted was the last to arrive, so their gang of friends was already taking the first sips of their Friday night pint. He noticed two extra women. Maybe they were friends of friends or colleagues?
“Here he is,” Andrew boomed. “Laurel, Michelle, meet my twin brother, Ted.” The two women kissed him on the cheek as greetings. “Hi, nice to meet you.” Ted smiled shyly at his new acquaintances.
“Obviously, you can see I got all the looks,” Andrew continued. “Ted is the fat twin with no dress sense.” Andrew smoothed his new shirt with his hand and then pointed to Ted’s creased polo. He instantly blushed crimson.
Ted was uncomfortable about his weight and found it challenging to find clothes he looked smart in, or that made him feel happy. He wished Andrew didn’t go on about it publicly, especially with people he had only just met. He dropped his head and ordered his drink, deciding against the two packets of cheese and onion crisps he’d looked forward to on his way to the pub.
“The applications are out today for the Ardealmouth Triathlon,” Mike said, looking down at his phone. “Are you doing it again, Andrew?”
Andrew’s face lit up. “Yes, definitely. I am going to smash it this year.”
Mike laughed. “You said that last year!”
“Ah, but I had bike trouble. I’ve bought a much better machine now, and I’m out with the cycling club twice a week. I’m probably their best rider. I swim every morning before work. I would leave all of you 5kms behind,” Andrew bragged.
“You’re on,” Simon jumped in. “How much are you betting?”
“Hey, why don’t we all do it? Raise some money for charity, then stick a fiver in the kitty as a side bet. Whoever gets the best time, gets the kitty,” Sian suggested.
Everyone thought it was an excellent idea—everyone except Ted, who was happy blending into the background and hoping no one included him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t so lucky.
“So, are we all in?” Andrew asked. “What about you, fatty?” He looked at Ted, who was in mid-sip of his pint. “I bet Ted’s big butt won’t fit on a cycle, never mind him being able to run.” The others laughed.
Ted felt ashamed. His face flushed, and he looked down at the floor. Laurel came to his defense: “I’m sure Ted’s going to give it a good go. I bet he’s much better than you think.”
Ted looked at Laurel; she had long, dark hair tied back in a high ponytail, and deep brown eyes. She seemed like a sweet, caring woman. He instantly liked her. Not wanting to let her down and with some sort of male pride, he found himself reluctantly saying he would give it a go.
His brother roared with laughter. “I can’t wait to see your huge body squeezed into Lycra.”
Laurel placed her hand on Ted’s arm. “Ignore him. You will be fine,” she said quietly.
When Ted woke the next day, he wondered what he’d gotten himself into. If it hadn’t been for Laurel, he would have rung his brother, told him he’d changed his mind, listened to all the banter and the fat jokes, and then moved on. But something about meeting Laurel made him want to try.
An hour later, Ted dusted off his rusty bike in the garage and headed to the local park. He was a bit wobbly at first and grabbed a litter bin at one point to stop from falling, but he soon got used to it. In fact, he managed four loops of the park in forty minutes.
By the time he arrived at the downhill finish on the last lap, with the wind rushing through his hair and the sun on his back, he actually found it enjoyable. Yes, his clothing clung to him, wet from perspiration, and his cheeks were bright red from exertion, but he felt proud. When imagined seeing Laurel as he crossed the finish line, he realized he quite fancied her.
Nine weeks later, and the day before the triathlon, Ted and everyone else was in The Horseshoes again, drinking orange juice or blackcurrant squash. “How’s everyone feeling?” Mike asked the group.
“Great!” shouted Andrew, who was the first to reply. “I am in the shape of my life,” he said as he patted his flat stomach. “Give me your money; it’s as good as mine.”
The others jeered and talked about the race times they wanted. Again, Ted was silent. He just wanted to finish. He had never attempted anything like this before, so he was a bit nervous.
“Ted, you’ve been working hard, how much weight have you lost?” Laurel asked.
“Nearly two stone,” he replied quietly. “Well done! You look great,” she said, smiling encouragingly. Ted instantly flushed.
The morning of the race finally arrived. Luckily, it was a beautiful day.
A decent-sized crowd turned out to watch, and Ted was surprised to see how many people were taking part. He was relieved to see people his size—and bigger— also registered.
The race started. Ted ran into the waves, surfaced, and then dived under the cold spray. He had always been a good swimmer. “Fat floats,” his brother always said.
He swam as fast as he could to the red buoy, which signified the swim portion’s halfway point. He paused to glance the astounding number of arms and legs splashing around him, before turning and swimming back to shore. He wasn’t first, but he was encouraged by the number of splashing limbs behind him.
Ted soon finished the swim, dragged his heavy legs out of the water, and jogged towards his brand new bike. He treated himself to a top of the range model and cycled to work most days. Seeing his shiny new bike gave him another boost, and he quickly jumped on the seat.
With a slight breeze in his face, he set off on the 10km track. So far, so good, he thought. The cycling route was pretty and would have been lovely if it hadn’t been for the steady stream of people overtaking him one by one. Although he wanted to hit the gas, he decided to maintain energy for the run portion of the race, which he knew would be his most challenging part.
Ted passed a sign that indicated 1km remaining. Unfortunately, this last part was all uphill, and his legs were already burning from his calves to thighs. He changed gears, breathed deeply, and suddenly heard a familiar voice ask, “How are you finding it?” He was more than surprised to see Laurel riding alongside.
“Great! I’m loving it,” he lied enthusiastically. She stayed with him until they came to their bike drop-off points.
By the time Ted was ready to start the run, he spotted Laurel and her bright orange top again, about 100 meters ahead of him. If I just keep her in my sights,” he thought, “maybe I’ll get through this.”
Every step was painful. His legs felt like lead, his thighs chafed, and his feet burned. His breathing was noisy, and he could feel the sweat pumping from hid pores. He gritted his teeth and chanted, “Keep going, keep going,” while focusing ahead on Laurel’s orange top.
After what seemed like an eternity, he could see the finish line. As he got closer, the crowds cheered him on and shouted words of encouragement. Tears sprung to his eyes: he was going to make it! He hadn’t disgraced himself.
He crossed the finish line to see Laurel standing in front of him, her bright red face clashing with her orange shirt, arms outstretched. She hugged him and said, “Well done! I knew you could do it.”
Ted stood and watched in amazement the others finishing behind him, people who were much thinner and fitter-looking. He was so proud of himself.
“We’re over here,” Laurel said, smiling while guiding him over to the others. “Pay up,” Mike shouted. “I got the best time.” He flexed his muscles and laughed.
“What about Andrew?” Ted looked around, puzzled. Where was his brother?
“Oh, he didn’t finish. Clashed with another cyclist, came off and hurt his shoulder. He’s fine; no hospital visit. Think he’s gone home,” Mike explained.
As the others compared times, Ted leaned towards Laurel. “Thanks for all your support,” he said. “How about we go for a gentle ride next weekend, and I pack a picnic? That’s if you want to…” Ted dried up.
“Oh, that sounds nice, thank you,” Laurel replied.
Ted lay in a hot bath reflecting on the day, his muscles starting to relax, and the pain beginning to subside.
I completed my first triathlon, asked a woman out, and joined a cycling club. The thought brought a broad smile to his face as he slowly submerged his body under the warm, comforting water.