HEREFORD triathlete Kathryn King will be heading off to Hawaii in October 2014 after seeing ‘a dream come true’.

The 35-year-old has become the first Hereford Triathlon Club member to qualify for the prestigious World Ironman Championships in Kona.

She achieved her ambition after coming home in second place in the 35 to 39 category at Ironman Wales in Tenby.

Kathryn finished the two-and-a-half-mile swim, 112-mile bike and marathon in 11.42.10, just 25 seconds behind the winner.

After finishing the bike leg in fourth place, she ran a 3.30 marathon to move up into second place.

“Ironman Wales is the first qualifier for the World Championships on October 13 next year,” she said. “There is a series throughout the year up until August to qualify for that particular year’s event and each event has a number of qualifying slots available.

“Next year, there will be people from all around the world who have competed in another Ironman event to qualify - basically it is the best of the best from everywhere.

“It is the original Ironman event - the Ironman Hawaii was first held in 1978, the year I was born.

“If you are into long-distance triathlon, then it’s the one that everyone dreams of doing so to get a qualification place is just a dream come true.

“It’s going to be a brilliant experience.”

Kathryn’s achievement is all the more remarkable considering that the Tenby competition was her first full Ironman event.

An all-round sportswoman from her younger days, she first experienced triathlon with the city club at the age of 28.

“I just loved the variety of it,” she said. “Rather than just focusing on one sport, it keeps it more interesting with the split between the three disciplines.”

As her fitness and endurance improved, she did longer running events - she has taken part in the London Marathon for the past two years - and this stimulated her interest in longer triathlons.

“I tried an Olympic distance which is roughly a two to two-and-a-half hour event and then became interested in building further on that so I did a middle-distance event last year, close to a half-Ironman,” she said.

“I did well in that so I did another one this year in North Wales. I was second so I thought why not focus on it and try out the full Iron distance.

“Tenby was fantastic. The people there really embraced the event and were so supportive.

“People who didn’t know me were shouting shouting my name and being really encouraging.”

Support and encouragement from closer to home has also been crucial.

Husband Steve has done an Ironman event, too, and earlier this year was fourth in the Devizes to Westminster canoe race, an event he has previously won.

“Steve comes from a triathlon background so I’ve got great inside knowledge there,” said Kathryn, who teaches ICT at the Royal National College.

“I have two children, Bethany is 13 and Cameron is five.

“Cameron probably didn’t get the full impression of what was going on but he was there at the finish in Tenby.

“Bethany was quite worried about me, I think. She had seen people doing Ironman before and suffering because racing for that long is painful at times. “She was just concerned that I was going to be OK and was very relieved when I finished in one piece.

“Steve and the children have put up with me doing hours and hours of training but I have really supportive parents and my husband’s parents are really supportive, too. My family have been absolutely brilliant.”

Kathryn’s commitment to her sport requires long hours to keep in shape.

“At the peak of my training, I’m probably doing 12-15 hours a week,” she said. “Some sessions may just be an hour and my longest bike ride would be about four to five hours. It’s amazing what you can fit just by getting up an hour earlier and if you really want to do something then there is always a way, for example I swim from 9pm to 10pm or get up and go for a run at 6am.”

Her long preparation for the big event in Hawaii will include competing for Wye Valley Runners in the Herefordshire Cross-Country League.

“It’s really good cross-training and for building up strength during the winter,” said Kathryn, who has lived in Hereford since her parents moved to the city when whe was two.

“They are such great events, loads of people turn up and there’s a great spirit.

“And I love training around Herefordshire, it’s absolutely ideal just to go five minutes out into the country for running and cycling routes - I’m spoiled for choice.”