Famous face helps win relay team third place

Mark, Alistair and Rory
Mark, Alistair and Rory

A Berkhamsted swimmer teamed up with his friend, political commentator Alastair Campbell, to achieve third place in the Sprint Team Relay at the Blenheim Palace Triathlon, in support of blood cancer charity Bloodwise.

Mark Johansen, aged 50, got the team off to a strong start in the water before handing over to Alastair for the bike leg.

Alastair’s son, Rory, took the anchor leg, sprinting across the finish line to grab third place in their category, with a time of 1 hour 16 minutes and 52 seconds.

Mark’s wife, Lindsay, lost her first husband, John Merritt, to leukaemia in 1992. Six years later, Lindsay and John’s daughter, Ellie, died from the same disease at the age of nine. Then in 2007, Mark’s friend, Shelley, died from chronic myeloid leukaemia aged 51.

Mark, who was part of the team that set a new world record in 2014 for the fastest relay team to swim butterfly across the English Channel, has so far raised over £35,000 for Bloodwise, with support from his family and Alastair, who was a close friend and colleague of John’s.

Mark said: “I was really pleased with the swim leg but the 500-yard steep uphill run out of the water came as a big surprise. Being in pole position after the swim leg got Alastair all fired up and he worked hard on the bike.

By the time Rory got away, we were a bit further down the field, but he’s a top runner and managed to reel us back a few places to finish in a respectable third.”