â€œIâ€™ll never forget the day I got the call from USA Triathlon,â€ Clarke beamed as she recalled events to Caribbean Today recently. â€œThe man said â€˜Are you Beverley Clarke?â€™, I said yes. He said â€˜weâ€™re calling from USA Triathlon, weâ€™d like you to join the national team and race for the U.S.â€™ I went crazy, screaming. I said, â€˜You realize Iâ€™m 50?â€™, he said â€˜Yes â€¦ We want you on team USAâ€™.â€
Her first race for Team USA was in Denmark, a country Clarke has had at the top of her list for a long time. She finished fifth, a remarkable achievement on the world stage in the gruelling event. Each contest totals 140.6 miles, with participants swimming 2.4 miles, biking for 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles. Typically, the event must be completed within 17 hours.
Clarke has her eye on the next race. However, the groundwork for her accomplishments began decades ago when she was a child. Born in a
seaside area of east Kingston known as Bournemouth Gardens, she started swimming at an early age. For years she rode a bicycle on the Caribbean island.
â€œThatâ€™s where my cycling skills come from,â€ Clarke recalled. â€œI used to swim across the harbour in Jamaica, thatâ€™s where I get my endurance from â€” three and a half miles from Bournemouth Gardens to Gunboat Beach.â€ As a teenager, Clarke joined the Pepsi Cola Swim Club and began swimming competitively. She finished third in her first race across the Kingston Harbour.
Clarke migrated to the U.S. in 1976, joined the Gold Coast Swim Club, started training and competed in the annual one-mile competition where she finished first many times. Her jump to triathlons was a natural progression, based on her swim and cycle skills. She was also inspired by Babette, a dear friend and senior tri-athlete. Fellow enthusiast Bertha joined them to form the â€œThree Bsâ€.
Clarke has been outpacing her competition. â€œItâ€™s not that Iâ€™m that great, itâ€™s my health,â€ she insisted. â€œI am outliving the competition. You think I donâ€™t have pain in my body after 350 triathlons? I tune it out. Competing in a triathlon is all in the head. Itâ€™s mind over matter.â€
Clarke has had injuries, but she works through them. She trains six days a week, combining swimming, biking, running and building strength. Competing isnâ€™t cheap, however. Bikes cost upwards of $10,000. Wetsuits for swimming in cold water are anywhere from $200 to $1000 and the proper biking and running shoes can run up to $500. In addition, travel costs are a big burden for professional tri-athletes.
To â€˜stay in the raceâ€™, Clarke is sponsored by companies such as Miami-based Big Wheel Bikes, law offices of Kessler & Kessler N.Y., and Multi race, organizers of a variety of endurance events. The investments have paid off. Clarke has won more than 600 medals, many of them gold, and has travelled the U.S. and Europe under the Team USA banner. She has no intention of slowing down.
â€œIn November Iâ€™m doing the National Championship here in Miami,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™ll be doing the half Ironman-Aqua Bike race, so you only have to swim and bike. Itâ€™s a qualifier for the Canada ITU World Championship next year, and I will qualify. â€œRemember, age is only a number. What we do with it is our choice!â€