Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern
Earlier this month, world-class triathlete Paula Newby-Fraser traveled to Kona, Hawaii like so many times before to experience the Ironman World Championship. But this time the Hall of Famer enjoyed the race from the sidelines, supporting all of the athletes who dream of one day accomplishing as much as she has over the course of her career.
The Queen of Kona was an athlete from birth, competing on swimming teams in South Africa until she was 15 years old, but she didn’t fall in love with fitness until after college. With a little positive peer pressure, she began running and going to the gym with friends in lieu of extended happy hours. “I started with running a 5K, then a 10K and just generally working out, enjoying the benefits of being back in shape and being healthy,” Paula tells us.
One thing led to another, and when a pal learned of Paula's swimming background, a triathlon became the new goal. The rest is history. She won a spot in the 1985 Hawaii Ironman, despite the fact that her newfound passion was her most challenging feat yet. “I had never ridden 112 miles and I had never run a marathon, so when I went to go and do that event, I pretty much did everything wrong,” she says. “But I knew that once I got through it, it opened the door and the possibility of pursuing it on a multiple-time basis.”
Almost 30 years later, Paula has won 24 Ironman Triathlon races—eight of which were Ironman Triathlon World Championships. She holds the Ironman world record of 8:50:24, and along with the “Greatest Triathlete in History” title from Triathlete Magazine in 1999. Her mental and physical connection to the sport kept her focused on the finish line every time she stepped up to the racing line. “I would say to myself, ‘There’s nothing I haven’t faced in training. I’ve had days where I felt brilliant, I’ve had days where I felt absolutely awful, I’ve had very average days," she explains. "I’ve been out there when it’s cold, when it’s raining, when it’s windy, when it’s hot, when I’ve had mechanical problems and yet somehow you make it through all those workouts and just deal with what the day gives you. There’s nothing that I can’t handle."
Outside of race training, Paula loves taking her mountain bike to the trails near her home in San Diego, California. “It’s so incredibly peaceful and interactive because you’re off road and on the trails,” she says. “Off-road running is also something that I absolutely love. Being able to go up a mountain is always something I think is special.” She even looks for good trails when vacationing—Utah and Colorado are two of her frequented spots.
What's next after the current Ironman season comes to an end? Paula has a few more race ideas up her sleeve. “Running an ultra-marathon is definitely on my list of things I would love to do. There are also some ultra-mountain biking events that I just feel like I have to get to do once or twice before too many more years go by.” She literally never stops, which explains why this ambitious gal lives by one word: consistency. “Find a way to integrate consistency in no matter what you choose. Being able to make it a part of you, of your life, of your grounding routine will make something rewarding, will make you want to do it, and give you the benefits,” she says. “If you can do something and make it a part of who you are, it just throws open the possibilities.”
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