Bernard Lyles: An Ambassador Of The Sport of Triathlon Explains How He Started In Endurance Sports and How His Youth Program Began

by | Aug 17, 2022 | Podcast

Bernard Lyles is the founder and director of Tri-Masters Chicago and is better known in the sporting community as the ambassador of the sport of triathlons. He has been instrumental in inspiring hundreds of African Americans into triathlons over the last three decades.

Bernard founded Tri-Masters Chicago in 1990 and began a program to train youth in fitness through triathlons in 1992 dubbed the Tri-Masters Sports Initiative training over 2800 youths at the time of this interview. He also had a hand in the foundation of Team Dream in 1987 aimed at training women of color in triathlons.

Today we look at the ambassador’s journey in triathlons, through his coaching career and what legacy he hopes to leave behind. We dive into the triumphs of seeing his students thrive and the challenges of getting funding for his organization.

Episode Highlights:

  • A brief overview of Bernard’s illustrious career.
  • Losing his job, and using running as a coping mechanism for the resulting depression.
  • The first marathon and reminiscing on the marathons of the 80’s and 90’s.
  • Running 40 marathons, some of the most memorable.
  • From marathons to triathlons and getting leptospirosis.
  • Starting Tri-Masters Chicago and some success stories.
  • Obstacles keeping the black community from Triathlons
  • The challenge of funding the Tri-Masters program.
  • What legacy does Bernard want to leave behind.

 Guest Bio

Program Founder and Executive Director, Tri-Masters Chicago Bernard Lyles is known internationally as an ambassador of the sport of Triathlon. Bernard has been instrumental in hundreds of African Americans taking up the sport of Triathlon.

His passion for the sport of Triathlon and his interest in teaching the sport to African-American youth athletes led him to found Tri-Masters Chicago in 1990 and Tri-Masters Sports Initiative Programs a youth program focused on promoting fitness through Triathlon training in 1992. Now into year #31 (2022) Tri-Masters Sports Initiative Programs have trained over 2800 youth in physical fitness and competition of the sport of Triathlon.

In 1998 Bernard co-founded Team Dream, an adult organization that introduces women of color to the sport of Triathlon. The most recent initiative developed and coached by Bernard is a learn to swim in open water group named “Seals Team”. Created in 2020 to keep team members active during the Covid-19 pandemic Seals Team members learn the fundamentals of open water swimming, safety and advanced training needed to compete in open water competitions including Triathlons.

Bernard has years of experience in the health and fitness industry as a personal trainer working for establishments such as Hyde Park Athletic Club, Bally Total Fitness and L A Fitness. Bernard also served as the Intramural and Recreation Coordinator for Chicago State University.

His formal education background includes an Associate in Applied Sciences Degree in Automotive Technology from Kennedy King College, and Bachelor of Arts in Health Physical Education & Recreation from Chicago State University.

As a First Choice Fitness Leader (an at-risk youth fitness intervention training program sponsored by the Chicago Department of Public Health) Bernard is an active member of the community volunteering numerous hours with youth organizations throughout the city for over three decades. These organizations include Chicago Public Schools, Inner Visions Youth Mentoring Program, Mercy Home for Boys & Girls and the Chicago South Swim Club.

Bernard is also associated with several professional associations and teams.

  • USA Triathlon Association.
  • US Lifeguard Association.
  • Professional Association of Diving Instructors. (PADI).
  • Major Taylor Cycle Club Chicago.
  • Men Run Deez Streets / Running Chicago

Bernard Lyles’ sports and recreation accomplishments include:

  • First Amateur to appear on the cover of American TRI – a worldwide publication in 2002.
  • Competing in and completing over 200 Triathlons from sprint distance to the Ironman.
  • An accomplished Triathlete and Marathon runner Bernard Lyles was invited to and competed in Triathlon’s premiere event consisting of a 2.4- mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run, the IronMan World.
  • Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on October 3, 1998. (15:01:42) IronMan Wisconsin 2002 (14:36:26).
  • Completing 40 Marathons, including 9 Boston Marathons: Personal Record is 2:54:21(Chicago 1985).
  • Power Bar Elite Team Member in 1997.
  • 1998-2000 Saucony Sports Team Member.
  •  Invitation and participation in the 1995 Dave Scott Triathlon TrainingClinic, Vail Colorado.
  • USA Triathlon Certified Race Director 2009.
  • President of the Rainbow Road Runners Club 1984 – 1993.
  •  Red Cross Certified Water Safety Instructor.
  •  PADI Certified Rescue Diver.


  • 2016 President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Community Leadership Award
  • Person of the Year in 1993- Windy City Sports Magazine
  • The Jamaican Consulate’s Leadership Award for Commitment to Excellence (promoting youth sports in Jamaica)
  • Chicago Marathon 2016 “Pat Rhodes Award” for Volunteer Excellence
  • 2001 International Olympic Committee Diploma (for remarkable contribution, as a Volunteer, to the development of sport and Olympics and to the promotion of friendship and solidarity among people).
  • Numerous Features on TV, magazine, books, social and newspaper media
  • Numerous Peer Awards, Running Club, Cycling Club and Community -Awards

Connect with Bernard Lyles

Catch Bernard on his website.

Donate to the Tri-Masters Sports Initiative.

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