A WALMER resident went from spectator to winner when she took first place in her age group in her very first Ironman South Africa event last month.
Robynne Klee, 23, said she was “chuffed” with her time of 11:50:34 that resulted in her taking top honours in the female 18 to 24 age group.
Klee completed the Ironman 70.3 (half the distance) in East London twice – last year and again this year when she came third in her age group.
She has also taken part in the Zports Tri-summer Series triathlons as well as the Eastern Province Development Association triathlon.
Klee, who is doing her honours in business management at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, said the Ironman was a tough race, but the good weather and enthusiastic supporters made it “an awesome” experience.
“I was really nervous before the race, especially because this was the first big race I was doing without my boyfriend or friends at the start,” she said.
“Also, I had never cycled the full 180.2km before or run a full marathon, yet I was going to do them both on the day, with a 3.8km swim beforehand.”
Growing up in the “Ironman city” of Port Elizabeth, Klee’s interest in the sport was sparked by spending all day cheering for the athletes.
In 2011, two of her close friends entered and took part in the Ironman 70.3. After seeing them do it, she decided she could do it too.
Without having a bicycle or a wetsuit, Klee entered the race knowing that once she had entered, there was no backing out. This forced her to save up and get all the equipment.
The triathlete’s road to success began when she was a teenager. She swam as a child but was “very overweight” until the age of 14.
“One day I decided that I was going to lose weight. At the same time I took up running to help me shed the excess weight – the best decision I have ever made.
“By the age of 16, I had lost 20kg and continued running to keep in shape – which has also made the running part of the race easier for me.”
That was the start of her preparation for her first triathlon.
The highlight of Ironman South Africa 2013 for Klee was seeing her friends along the course and hearing them cheer her on.
“Also, running along the red carpet and crossing the finish line is a feeling that I will never forget, especially with all my friends being there to hug and congratulate me after the race.”