First-time triathlete eager to test herself next weekend at Stephenville Sprint

Jamie Bennett
Published on July 6, 2014
Genny Russell of Stephenville is seen on the road near Stephenville beach as she prepares to take part in her first ever triathlon. — Star photo by Frank Gale

If you had told Genny Russell in April that she’d participate in her first triathlon this summer, she might not have believed you.

That’s when the Stephenville native decided to start pushing herself toward a healthier lifestyle by joining a local gym and running on a treadmill.

It’s not as if the Canada Post employee isn’t active since she’s walked roughly 16.5 kilometres each work day for the past four years.

But the 43-year-old admits she’s a competitor who’s eager to test herself and with this in mind Russell will be among the participants in the fourth annual Stephenville Sprint Triathlon on July 13.

“If I’m going to do it I want to be good at it,” Russell said with a chuckle. “It’s a personal thing to get in there and compete. It’s not about beating everyone; it’s actually being able to do it.”

The event will start at the Stephenville Aquatic Centre with a 500-metre swim, followed by a 20-kilometre bike loop toward Little Port Harmon and back before winding up with a five- kilometre run.

To prepare herself, Russell and her partner Maria Churchill recently competed in the five-kilometre Centennial Cup Road Race in Grand Falls-Windsor.

To her surprise, Russell finished sixth in the 119-person field while Churchill won the event.

It’s a result she credits, at least in part, to her day job.

“It’s keeping me active whether I want to be or not,” she said. “I think it helps with my endurance and getting my cardio up because you want to get your work done as quickly as possible and you’re steady walking.”

Russell said she hasn’t swam in about five years so she expects the swim portion of the race to be the most challenging for her.

With this in mind, she’s started swimming in the mornings before she starts work and instead of worrying about her time, she’s been more focused on simply finishing the swim.

A major reason she’s decided to get more active has been the encouragement of Churchill, who she said is concerned about her health since heart disease runs in her family. Russell said she lost her father to heart disease at 49 and had several uncles die in their 50s.

“She doesn’t care what I’m doing as long as I’m moving,” she said. “It’s hard to do it on your own so it’s inspiring to have people around you who are supportive.”

Since her decision to compete in the race, Russell said she’s been trying to recruit some friends to join her and has managed to convince a family of three to split of the event into one discipline each.

She said as a familiar face in the Stephenville area, she’s hopeful more people will follow her lead and give the sport a try.

“I’m hoping they’ll see that if I’m doing it, they can do it,” she said.