The Ironman Triathlon is a series of long-distance races recognized the world over for the immense training, skill and stamina required by participants. Several people from the region competed in the Ironman U.S. Championship in New York City on Aug. 10, but one local competitor has particularly stood out: Maureen Cullen, 35, placed first in her age group and is now qualified to go to Kona, Hawaii for the Ironman world championship.
Cullen, from Oceanport, has been racing for the past nine years in between having three children, now ages 10, 8 and almost 6. Her dedication to racing and her personal story are so compelling that a documentary film crew has included her in their production of “Iron Journey,” a movie that follows four athletes in their quest to compete in Ironman.
“I said to one of my childhood best friends, ‘Oh, let’s give this a try,’ ” Cullen told Patch, saying that her racing career began with a short relay and went from there. Her friend still races, and their husbands and other friends have since become involved, as well. Recently, the group headed up to Maine for another race.
Despite having done “maybe over 20” races of different lengths and levels of competition, Cullen admitted that the Ironman race did not come easy.
“It was very difficult. It was a lot of fun, definitely very challenging,” Cullen said. “The whole process was a great experience… So much effort goes into it ahead of time, just training for that one day.”
And train she did — Cullen worked hard to improve her swimming, biking and running times. She and her trainer, Melanie Fink from IronFit, scheduled training sessions around her family obligations, and her nutritionist, Brian Shea of Personal Best Nutrition, worked to make sure she ate right.
“That’s such a big part of the race, making sure your nutrition is correct, and [Shea] nailed it,” said Cullen, who said her success has come from the combination of Fink, Shea and of course, her very supportive husband.
With the Ironman competition in Kona quickly approaching on Oct. 13, Cullen isn’t slowing down. “I was looking forward to getting a break, but now I’m back to training again,” she said with a laugh.
When not racing, training or raising her children, Cullen is a director for the annual Beauty and the Beach 5-mile run in Long Branch. In only its first three years, the event has raised more than $40,000 for charity.
Beauty and the Beach is a race for women, which is where Cullen found her feet. “It’s women encouraging other women, so it’s a great place to start,” she said.
Still, Cullen looks forward to what each races of all types have to offer.
“Every race is different. There’s always some challenge you have to get by.”