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Paula Newby-Fraser - "competing Touched A Spark In Me"

Famous Sports StarsOther SportsPaula Newby-Fraser Biography - "competing Touched A Spark In Me", Becomes A Professional Triathlete, "running Is My Passion", Chronology - SELECTED WRITINGS BY NEWBY-FRASER:

"Competing Touched a Spark in Me"

Newby-Fraser was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1962. She was the younger of two children. Her father, a wealthy industrialist, moved the family to South Africa when Newby-Fraser was still young; he owned a large paint factory there. Newby-Fraser grew up with wealth and privilege, and as a child took ballet lessons and swimming classes. She showed a talent for swimming early, winning a South African national ranking while she was still in high school.

In college, Newby-Fraser decided to take a break from sports, and as a consequence, gained quite a bit of weight. However, she felt she needed a break from her intense training, and was glad to spend time with her friends, studying and relaxing. After graduating in 1984, Newby-Fraser began working full-time. She decided to lose the weight she had gained, and began running, talking aerobics classes, and lifting weights. At the end of that year, she heard about a triathlon that was going to be held in her hometown. This event, which combines swimming, bicycling, and running, is a true test of endurance. A full-length, or "Ironman," triathlon includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a full running marathon—26.2 miles—all in one day. The triathlon she heard about was almost full-length, and the winners would go to Hawaii to compete in that year's Ironman Triathlon.

Newby-Fraser and her boyfriend went to watch the competition. Her initial reaction was that it was a ridiculous lous thing to do. However, her boyfriend convinced her to give the event a try in the following year, and they bought bicycles and began training. Eight weeks after buying the bicycle, Newby-Fraser entered her first triathlon. She not only finished, but won, setting a new women's record for the course. She also finished among the top 10 athletes, male or female. Three months later, she won the women's division of the South African Triathlon, and won a free trip to Hawaii to compete in the famed Ironman Triathlon there. She told Judith P. Josephson in Children's Digest, "Competing touched a spark in me that had not been there for several years. It felt like coming home."

Newby-Fraser did not train very hard for this event. She had never even bicycled 112 miles in a week, let alone in a day, and she had never run a marathon. Her plan was simply to finish the race and learn from the experience. When she arrived in Hawaii and began doing training runs there, she ran into unforeseen difficulties. She had trouble with the heat and with the sunburn she built up from being out all day. However, she persisted, and came in third in the world-class race.

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