When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 many professional triathletes were left with no source of income – Lucy Hall found herself in exactly that situation.
The 29-year-old Leeds-based star got through a difficult few months though by switching sports to football’s Premier League – as a COVID-19 swabber.
Lucy worked at Sheffield United as football tiptoed out of the sport’s enforced lockdown to complete its 2019-2020 Premier League season.
Working through the pandemic
“I actually went and worked as a swabber for the Premier League, for the footballers during COVID,” she explained.
“I worked for a company for six or seven months at Sheffield United. It was a good experience, it made me think that this is cool, I can do something else and triathlon is not the only thing i can do in my life.
“I’ve been around for a while and that’s all I’ve ever known. In a way, I needed to do something different to know that if triathlon didn’t / doesn’t work out, there are other things I can do.
“It’s difficult, it’s tough [life as a Pro triathlete], but I thought that I need to make some form of income – I can’t just live off Bucko (Mark Buckingham, Lucy’s partner) – I have to do something, and that’s when I got that gig.
“I was also cleaning – I was cleaning at a physio twice a week through the pandemic. It kind of gave me an idea of what I can do – I’m sacrificing a lot to do triathlon, but it also made me just really grateful that i’ve got the opportunity to do it.”
The reality of PRO life
‘Living the dream’ might be a phrase often used, but that is far from the reality for most professional triathletes. For middle and long-distance racers too, there is no comfort in central contracts from the National Federation either.
Lucy admitted: “When I first came off funding, they were the first few things on my mind – what am I going to do about travel insurance? What am I going to do about physio?
“It makes you think – can I do this? Can I do triathlon? Can I support myself? I didn’t want to do it if I couldn’t make a living and as with any athlete, it’s difficult when you are then living in a pandemic, there are no races and there’s not really any way of making any kind of money.
Support is key – and a PTO lifeline
“The fact that I can get coached by Bucko, and get coached by Coz, and have that support system as well, I’m super lucky to have that. It was eye opening, definitely, in the pandemic having that.
“The whole year really has helped in terms of getting people’s attention and I also think it helps that things are opening up in the world in general. Last year, I think if you’d asked somebody to sponsor you than they would most probably have said no. It didn’t make sense to sponsor an athlete when there are no races going on.
“The big thing was the PTO giving out the end-of-year bonuses when they did. That helped me so much. Things like I bought a treadmill because we could only go out once a day at one point. Just the ability to buy that, made so much difference. Having that PTO support was huge. What they are doing as well within our sport I think is just brilliant.”
Lucy is also in the running for a bonus from the Challenge Family World Bonus scheme, currently in third place with just CLASH Daytona remaining on December 4.
“It gives you something to aim for. When 70.3 Worlds came off the my schedule, it was something else to strive for towards the end of the year which really helped for my mental well-being as well, as I had something else to chase.”