With 1 800 women competing across this year’s IRONMAN South Africa triathlons – 200 more than in 2017 – there is no doubt that female participation is on the rise.

One of these courageous athletes is local entrepreneur and mother of two, Amanda Shaw, who is living proof that anything is possible.

“I just love being part of the culture, the people and the discipline that triathlon teaches you. Not a lot of people will ask you what your finishing time was, most people are just impressed and inspired by the fact that you entered and finished an IRONMAN.

Becoming an IRONMAN

The triathlon bug bit Amanda in 2010 when she entered the Isuzu Corporate Triathlon Challenge powered by Algoa FM.

“I did the 18km cycle leg as part of a team of three on a mountain bike worth R800 and just a pair of takkies – no cleats. The following year I entered the IRON GIRL Series and did the 8km run. My background is running, and my running club had a lot of triathletes doing IRONMAN so I thought I should give it a try.”

Amanda’s IRONMAN journey began in 2012 when she registered for both the Standard Bank IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa in Buffalo City and Standard Bank IRONMAN African Championship in Nelson Mandela Bay.

She, unfortunately, missed the bike cut off time in both races, “I was devastated. I was new to cycling and both bike courses are tough. I was not going to give up, so I entered both again the following year,” says Amanda.

She went on to finish both races in 2013 and has since finished five IRONMAN and seven IRONMAN 70.3 events to date, and the Standard Bank 5150 Nelson Mandela Bay twice.

Amanda also participated in the prestigious 2018 Isuzu IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, which took place on African soil for the very first time, after securing an IRONMAN 4 the Kidz Charity Slot for this pinnacle event.

Amanda’s journey to the red carpet

When Amanda started off, she couldn’t swim. “I could only doggy paddle and I was terrified of open water swimming. Now, I can confidently get into the water. I am not the fastest swimmer, but I get the job done.”

But the biggest challenge has been finding the balance as a triathlete and her roles as a mother of two and running her own business.

“If I had more time, if I did not have a business, I would most definitely do better by being on the podium regularly – it’s just hard to juggle everything. I’m in the surgical and medical industry, so I travel a lot, and I look after my two kids. It’s tough but I am just so passionate about the sport; I absolutely love the triathlon culture.”

More specifically, it’s the vibe, the electric atmosphere on race day, and the crowds that come out to support the athletes on the day that keeps Amanda coming back for more.

“It’s special when they chant your name on the side of the road. You earn respect when people see you wearing an IRONMAN bag or wearing an IRONMAN finisher-shirt and the events are well run from the start to finish.”

Sharing her experience

Amanda finds that many ‘newbies’ feel threatened by the swim but assures them that it’s not too bad once you’re out there. “My attitude is that the swim is the shortest discipline of the three. You don’t have to be good at it, just survive it and get onto that bike and run.”

The switch from a bunch to a seeded rolling start has also helped to make it much better for first-timers who may be nervous about the swim.

The next challenge

After stepping onto the podium in her age group category (55 – 59 years) for the first time at the 2018 Standard Bank 5150 Nelson Mandela Bay, Amanda will be gunning to be the first woman across the finish line in her age group category this year.

She also has her eyes set on securing another slot at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. Women For Tri, a program of the IRONMAN Foundation that aims to welcome and empower new female triathletes to be a part of the sport’s continued growth in high-level competition, recently announced that a total of 500 additional women will earn an invitation to race in the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship taking place in Taupо̄, New Zealand on November 28-29, 2020.

Slots will be awarded to top finishing female athletes at 20 select races worldwide, including the Standard Bank IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa. Following the standard IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship roll-down ceremony at the 20 select races, 25 additional slots will be awarded to the next most qualified women, proportional by age group. This will create a deeper field of female athletes while maintaining the integrity and prestige of an IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship event. Amanda will be hoping to grab one of these slots on Sunday, 26 January 2020, when she takes on the Standard Bank IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa in Buffalo City.

Photo credit: FinisherPix