Ironman athlete, Kyle Buckingham, tells his story

May 29, 2014



My name is Kyle Buckingham I’m 30 years old and the youngest of 3 in the family, born in Port Elizabeth. For the past 4 years I have been racing Ironman around the globe, I had no endurance background when I started in this sport at 24 years old and loved it since the day I put on a pair of running shoes. When I was a kid growing up I didn’t like school all that much and couldn’t bare opening up a school book to study, I rather preferred to go skate boarding around the neighbourhood and cause trouble.

I was sent to a technical school after having not done very well in standard 7 and discovered that I was very good working with my hands instead. I studied welding for 2 years and made some of the best jet master braai’s out there (My mom actually bought one and we still have it to this day).  After standard 8 I went to a technical college and that’s where I studied to become an Electrician. After 3 years of studying in Port Elizabeth I moved over to London to work in the electrical field, luckily enough I landed a job straight away. My father, brother and sister were living in London already having moved over at separate times to work as well. In my first year all I did was work and save money, as my dream was to travel the world and surf the most exotic spots on the planet.

Surfing was my first love as I started at the age of 14 till I was 20 years old. I tried my hardest to become a pro surfer but just couldn’t make it. However my surfing was pretty good, busting aerial moves and so on. One day on the way to work I was walking past a travel agency and thought it would be an awesome idea to buy an around the world ticket and surf the places I had in mind. I had a think about it for a week and went back cashing in my travellers checks from under my mattress which was my piggy bank and bought the ticket. I told my mom that I was going to surf around the world on my own for a year and she had a little freak out. I think travelling on my own was the best thing that ever happened to me as I was forced to meet new people and make some lifelong friends who I still have to this day. I even drove from Perth on the West Coast to Noosa on the East Coast of Australia, it took a long 3 months and I drove 17000km by myself. I had met a load of people along the trip and even had company on the whole East Coast with a buddy that was doing the same thing.

After travelling for 11 months and seeing 8 countries I decided to go back to London to carry on working as an Electrician. After 3 years of partying and living the London life I discovered Ironman triathlon while living in a house share.  One of my friends was training for it and after about 6 months hearing about his training every day and cycling for 6 hours on a Saturday, doing 2 hr runs on a Sunday something just triggered and said why I don’t give this a try. So I bought quite a fancy bike, a pair of running shoes and a free program online and I was set to go! Training in London was never going to be easy especially having grafted manual labour all day on a construction site, bashing walls, climbing in ceilings and total rewiring of some of the best houses in London.

The graft was hard and I wasn’t in any ideal shape to train in the evening, but I kept going no matter how tired I was. I used to start training from 6-10pm every night and only finish eating dinner at 11pm, before jumping into bed. That went on for 3 years having no party life but just training. I would do most of my training indoors on a bike trainer and a treadmill which was a warm up jog to the Virgin Active. Saturdays were my worst days of training not only because it was 7hrs but it was cold and mostly raining. I used to cycle down to Brighton on the South Coast and back to London, 180km layered with clothing and sometimes even a balaclava and frozen water bottles. I spent 4 winters in London training for Ironman South Africa because it was their summer.

My first ever Triathlon was the Ironman in South Africa 2009 and finished 66th overall with a time of 10:29hr. After that I went back to London and tried out a few Half Ironman’s and qualified in my first one for the Half Ironman World Champs in Florida that same year. The following year I came back to South Africa to compete again and took off 1:05hr off my previous years’ time, coming 2nd in my age group and qualifying for the World Champs in Hawaii in 2010. Unfortunately I could not go to Hawaii that year and would have to try again the following year. In 2011 I didn’t have a very good race in South Africa having had 2 punctures in the opening 30km of the bike ride and later becoming quite ill. My brother was also doing the Ironman that year and not having the race he wanted either so we crossed the finish line together.

That same year after having built up so much fitness for Ironman South Africa and not having a good race, I entered another Ironman in Germany (Regensburg) the following day after the event. That race was the turning point for me, knowing that I was capable of becoming a pro triathlete one day finishing IM Germany 7th overall in a time of 8:56hr. I qualified for the world champs in Hawaii in 2011 and finished 8th in my age group in 9:20hr. In 2012 I came back to Ironman South Africa and won my age group in 9:27hr, through some of the worst winds we have ever seen in an Ironman and qualified again for Hawaii. That was the year after having gone to work every day in London dreaming that I could land a sponsor and start my dream career and not work on a building site again. It was the day after the race in South Africa that I contacted Trevor Mclean Anderson the founder of Axis House and Velocity Sports Lab. I bought a plane ticket the next day to Cape Town sat down very nervous and left with a dream in my hands.  I went back to London told my fiancé the great news and started packing our bags to move back to South Africa for good. My fiancé also works at Velocity Sports Lab as the massage therapist and we are very happy to be back home.

It is all finally coming true, I am back in a sunny country working limited hours to pursue my one and only dream of becoming a professional triathlete. I have had an incredible year racing 7 races and ending off my amateur career becoming World Amateur Champion in Hawaii 2013 and setting a new amateur course record of 8:37hr coming 16th overall out of a stacked pro field and running the 7th fastest marathon of the day 2:56hr.

I Hope to carry on reaching for the stars to become the best triathlete in the world one day and to never give up.

Dreams are made to become reality.

Kyle’s race schedule for the rest of the year is:

Raleigh 70.3 – North Caroline – 1 June 2014

Eagleman 70.3 – Cambridge, Maryland – 8 June 2014

Vineman 70.3 – California – 13 July 2014

Ironman Lake Placid – Arizona – 27 July 2014

Austin 70.3 – Texas – 26 October 2014

Ironman Arizona – 16 November 2014

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