In a remarkable display of determination and resilience, Mary Mutlanyane, a 39-year-old devoted mother of two, recently completed her first IRONMAN race. With the support of ISUZU, she overcame numerous challenges to achieve this incredible feat.
We had the privilege of sitting down with Mary to discuss her journey, her experience as a mother, and the invaluable role that ISUZU played in her triumphant race.
Congratulations, Mary, on completing your first IRONMAN race! Can you take us through the emotions you felt as you crossed the finish line?
Mixed emotions really - excitement but at the same time, disbelief. The minute I landed on the red carpet my eyes got filled with tears. This is a life-changing experience.
Tell us more about your upbringing and your childhood. Who inspired you to run races?
I ran short distances when I was still at school. I ran track and relay. I stopped during my high school years and resumed running in my final years at university. I have since never looked back.
Have you always dreamt of competing in IRONMAN?
I dreamt of completing IRONMAN only after I learnt how to swim. I always thought Ironman was something unattainable, because of the swimming. Only after learning how to swim, I knew that there's a possibility of completing IRONMAN.
As a mother, how did you balance training for such a demanding event while also taking care of your family?
It's all about routine and juggling. I've set a routine around my work and family. During the week I train in the morning at 5 am when the kids are still sleeping, before my workday starts. If I don't get the training done early in the day, it gets difficult in the afternoon as I have motherhood responsibilities. When I'm working from home, I use my lunch hour to do things like strength training or mobility. On weekends when I need to go for long-distance cycling, long runs or open water swimming, my husband Motlatsi steps in and helps look after our little boys. As a triathlete himself, he understands that training is important.
ISUZU sponsored your entry into the IRONMAN. How did their support impact your training and overall race experience?
Honestly, after receiving my entry from ISUZU I realised that now this is no longer just about me only, but my sponsor too. I knew I had to train harder to not let my sponsor down. The experience was amazing. What stood out for me was the registration process at the expo starting with my picture being taken and proceeding from one race official to the next until my registration was done. It was a world-class experience!
What inspired you to take on the challenge of an IRONMAN race?
I challenged myself. I've set a goal and worked hard to achieve it. While I was still learning how to swim, I did other things like summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, running the Comrades marathon, cycling 202km at Double Century and more. I thought if I can get the swimming right, Ironman will be my next big adventure. It was a bucket list item. Joining a triathlon club inspired me more.
Were there any specific moments during the race where you faced significant obstacles? How did you overcome them?
It was my first time swimming in the ocean. It felt long. My mental goal was to take it one buoy at a time, one pull at a time, and this helped. Having other athletes around me helped, knowing that I'm not all by myself in the ocean.
How did you prepare mentally and physically for the race? Did you have a strict training regimen?
Yes, I had a very strict training regimen. At the beginning of my Triathlon journey, I asked Coach Jessica Wait at my triathlon club, PEaK, to be my coach. I wanted to get my training right and ensure that I train for all the three disciplines without compromising on any of them. Having a coach helps as I have someone to answer to.
Did you receive any support from your family or friends throughout your training? How did they contribute to your success?
My helper also contributed to my success. When both my husband and I are out training, she's there to help with the kids. My friends are runners too. When I'm not doing a club run, they are there to run with me around the neighbourhood.
The IRONMAN race is known for its gruelling nature. Were there moments during the race when you doubted your ability to finish?
During the swimming discipline, I told myself I can get out of the water; I've got the race. As much as I was relieved to finish the swim in time, I still felt the pressure to finish cycling quickly to avoid any cut-off. Running is my strongest, so after I parked my bike and started the run, I just knew I'm an Ironman 70.3 finisher.
How did you stay motivated during the race, especially when fatigue and exhaustion set in?
I remembered my 'Why'. I remembered why I was doing this and how much I wanted it.
Can you share any special memories or interactions with fellow competitors that stood out to you during the race?
In the running leg that's when one gets to interact with fellow competitors. I just loved seeing and smiling at women doing this, taking on this gruelling race and doing so well.
Looking back, what advice would you give to other mothers who aspire to take on similar endurance challenges?
Establish a training plan that's not going to compromise the well-being of your family. If you can't do morning training, set time aside for afternoon training. Don't neglect yourself in the process, as you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Lastly, what's next for you after completing the IRONMAN? Do you have any new goals or races in mind?
I will be taking part in small triathlons and half marathons locally, and I want to take on the Otter Trail marathon this year or next year and will be going for Isuzu Ironman Mossel Bay in November.
Mary's journey from being a dedicated mother to conquering the IRONMAN race is nothing short of inspiring. Her story reminds us that with the right mindset and a strong support system, we can accomplish extraordinary feats.
ISUZU South Africa eagerly awaits her future endeavours and wishes her the very best in her continued pursuit of boldness and excellence.