The girls say their humanities teacher, who has completed nine Ironman challenges and an Ultraman, was their inspiration.
Ironman teacher inspires schoolgirls to compete in Abu Dhabi duathlon
DUBAI // Tomorrow morning, while most children their age are watching weekend cartoons or trying to drag their weary parents out of bed, three young girls will be lining up on the Corniche to compete in the Abu Dhabi Kids Duathlon.
Organised by the tourism authority a day ahead of the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, the race for nine to 12 year olds begins at 9.30am and includes a 200 metre swim and 2 kilometre run, while 13 to 16 year olds will compete in a 300m swim and 2.5km run.
Angelica Gordon, 10, and her Repton School Dubai classmates Elyse Truebridge and Emilia Eaves, who are both 9, will be among more than 200 children in their age category.
"I'm really excited," said Angelica, who has been racing super sprint triathlons and duathlons for two years with her classmates Elyse and Emilia.
The girls said their humanities teacher, Edward Hawkins, inspired them. Mr Hawkins has completed nine Ironman challenges and an Ultraman, which he completed last year to raise awareness about preventing diabetes with a healthy lifestyle.
"I guess I saw him do that and thought that was really good and amazing and I wanted to do it one day," said Emilia.
Elyse first saw Mr Hawkins race two years ago and thought she would like to follow in his footsteps.
"Back then we were just doing the super sprint," she said.
If the fitness seed is planted at an early age, it will last a lifetime, according to Mr Hawkins.
"I'm a big believer in fostering healthy competition and a healthy living lifestyle comes as a by-product. We won't all be [Olympic champion] Alistair Brownlee but we will be the best possible version of ourselves. That's the end goal," he said.
Brownlee, who won gold for Britain in last summer's London Olympics, will be competing in Saturday's "short" course (1.5km swim, 100km bike and 10km run).
As for Mr Hawkins, he'll be skipping the race because he is in his base phase of training for August's Ironman UK. But he will be cheering on the girls from Repton.
Elyse, who some day aims to complete an Olympic distance triathlon (1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run), said she was happy with her training going into this weekend's duathlon.
The three girls have been going to school early two or three times a week for a swim squad session.
"When everyone else is at home sleeping, we're here," she said.
"The first time I did a triathlon I found it quite challenging but after training I've got pretty good at it. My strongest part is the swim probably. Even if the sea if absolutely freezing, it is my favourite. I am not nervous but quite excited."
Angelica said she wants to go "the full extreme" in endurance racing. "I don't know why. It's really fun and exciting. It gives a bit more excitement to your day."
And she is aware of the level of training and commitment it takes to reach endurance level. "My mum told me soon I have to decide on one sport, like swimming, and do the full amount of swimming. If you get really good you have to train more, but I want to do all of them," she said, "swim, bike and run."
That enthusiasm and joy for sport, Mr Hawkins believes, is what fitness is all about.
"It's about getting people in tune with being a child again," he said. "And you want that experience because it's fun and enjoyable. Because we're human: if it's a drag, we don't want to do it."
- This version CORRECTS an earlier version in which we had named the Repton teacher as Justin Hawkins. His name is Edward.