Thriving through striving by Sam Briffett
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
My name is Samantha Briffett (though I prefer to go by Sam) I’m 51 years old, I identify as a trans woman and my preferred pronouns are she/her. I’m married to Anne and we have two grown up children Aiden 20 and Frances 17, we live in Peacehaven and have two barking mad dogs – Kendall and Archie, I’m a bit of an environmentalist, an animal lover and a vegan.
When I was at school, I quickly discovered that I had no natural aptitude for sport at all. This may have been because I was being asked to compete as a boy with other boys, or simply that I was genuinely bad at just about everything on offer. When team leaders had to pick players I was always the one at the end that no one really wanted, I knew I was bad and I didn’t want to be playing at all so this was fine with me.
Towards the end of my school career I discovered that years of cycling in every day had made me quite good at it. I saved up my paper round money and bought a better bike and then set off exploring the countryside. A year or so later I joined a local club and swept up all the junior medals in my first year. Sounds impressive until I let on that I was the only junior rider in the club so I only needed to turn up and I was guaranteed to win!
My interest in cycling grew and I was one of the early adopters of mountain bikes when they made their welcome appearance from the US. I even tried a bit of racing but I rarely finished due to mechanical breakdowns, trying to ride whilst still under the influence of alcohol or my refusal to treat it as anything more than a good laugh, the more serious races became the less interested I was. Fast forward to 2007 and I was at a low point, hating my job and myself but I hit upon the idea of selling my motorbike to force myself to cycle into work. This proved an excellent decision, cycling 17 miles a day meant I got my weight under control, improved my mental and physical health and it was easily the best part of my day.
In 2008 a friend suggested we have a go at a Triathlon, so I said ‘sure why not’ (yes even back then I didn’t stop to think before agreeing to daft things). As it turned out my friend got a back injury so never took part but I had caught the bug. I started sea swimming once a week, and was in the pool before work twice a week, running 5k two or three times a week, and of course my cycle training was already covered. I wasn’t interested in winning, my aim was to be in the top third. Anyone who knows me well will agree that I can be a bit muddle headed, so in one amusing incident I took part in the Seaford triathlon and miscounted the number of laps on the cycle ride, doing an extra one and thereby dropping out of the top 30 down to around 90th place.
At the end of 2009 I took voluntary redundancy from my long hated accountancy job to work for myself, this was both good and bad as it meant an inevitable decline in my fitness as there was no motivation to continue cycling the miles I’d been doing. Anne and I work on our magazine business together and at one point were lucky enough to have an advertiser who’d started a private gym in their converted garage. It turned out to be run by a trans lady and it was the perfect place to work out where I could be myself and not feel like I was being stared at. Sadly it didn’t last as the gym owner decided to move out of the area.
After this I tried a local gym and keeping fit through sporadic bursts of running and cycling but by early 2018 I was a year into my transition and had no clue where to go or what to do next. I’d stopped going to the gym as it was difficult feeling that others were looking at me. Then like discovering a beacon to guide lost travellers I found a link to Trans Can Sport tucked away on the Clare Project web site. I read everything I could then sent a very cautious email asking how I could get involved, before I knew it I was trying everything from yoga to volleyball. I’d made friends for the first time in years and had the confidence to live as myself full time.
Through Trans Can Run I was motivated to sign up for the Brighton 10K run in November 2018 and finished in a respectable 54 minutes. As soon as I could I put
my name down for the 2019 edition. Although my training will be interrupted in August as I have my long awaited surgery (yippee and yikes!) it’s like waiting to get on the world’s scariest roller coaster; you are excited and terrified all at the same time. We are so lucky having the Trans Can Sport in Brighton, and I’d say if you are on your own reading this wondering whether to get involved, don’t hesitate, jump in, no one in our community will judge you and you might just make some really good friends too.