Genia Marek Cycling Team GB Athlete Triathlon

Genia is a Londoner who was inspired by the Brownlee brothers in the triathlon at the London Olympics in 2012. She talks to Sundried about how she got into the sport and some of her achievements.

Have you always been into sport?

From as far back as I can remember, I have always been active. I would say it’s always been a part of my lifestyle rather than purely competition.  Some of my earliest memories of sports were simply cycling alongside my mum or dad when they were running. They have clocked up close to twenty marathons between them, so I guess it’s an environment that has always felt quite natural to me. One day, instead of cycling next to them, I ran next to them, and so it continued from there.

What made you decide to enter triathlon?

I started my triathlon journey in late 2014. I was a typical example of somebody directly inspired by the scenes witnessed in the London 2012 Olympic Games. I have been a “Londoner” all my life and that summer the City came alive and you couldn’t help but be absorbed by the atmosphere and the scenes. Triathlon was one of the public events, held in Hyde Park, that anyone could go along to and spectate. Witnessing the wave of noise that reverberated through the streets with every loop the athletes completed, I watched the Brownlee brothers dominate to bring home the Gold and Bronze! From that moment I was hooked on the idea of multi-sport events.

What’s been your best race to date?

I think your best race doesn’t always have to be the one where you walk away with gold wear around your neck or a personal best time. For me, “Best” transcends the clock, it’s where everything comes together, feels right…time flies! Sometimes you can experience this in training, and to be honest, it probably happens more in training than in a race. It’s quite an addictive sensation that I am always seeking.

However, one race really stands out for me. It was the Jenson Button Triathlon 2016. It is my favourite triathlon of the season regardless of how I race because it is an amazing day that has everything; a festival atmosphere, great food, and best of all everyone gets to compete in two triathlon races! A lot of elite athletes turn up because of the generous prize kitty, as well as an awesome goodie bag (for everyone) and this also means you have the rare opportunity to race against some of the best triathletes in this country. I came away with 5th place last year but in terms of my swim, bike and run, it was the best I’d ever felt (probably because the swim is shortened to 400m!)

And your proudest achievement?

My proudest moment is divided between two championship wins, which happened within 3 weeks of one another this April.  On the 9th April, I won the British Age Group (30-34) Standard Distance Duathlon Championship at Bedford Autodrome; and then on the 30th April, I won the European Age Group (30-34) Standard Distance Duathlon in Soria. I think it was shock more than pride, but I certainly feel very proud every time I put on the GB Kit and represent British Triathlon!

Have you ever had any racing disasters/ your toughest race yet?

Absolutely. I’d say in most races there is always something not relating to swimming, biking, or running that puts a spanner in the works! Physically, my hardest race was the second triathlon I ever competed in. It was the London Triathlon (Sprint distance) in 2015. I came out of the water and knew I was quite high up in the field because we’d caught the back markers of the wave in front of us. Entering the Excel for T1, I found my bike, was running towards the exit…next thing I knew I slipped on wet concrete and landed on my coccyx. I didn’t know then that I’d fractured it, but I got up and carried on racing. I wanted to win that race on home soil. The cycle was beyond unpleasant and the impact of the run shot knife pains through my spine…but I came through the finish line and won my Age Group and was second female overall. I would say that no physical pain is ever as hard to overcome as a mental aberration because it’s surprising what adrenaline can do, but there have definitely been other very challenging races since then.

How have you overcome set backs?

I think setbacks in sports and in life are inevitable. It doesn’t make them any easier or any less disappointing. When you make sacrifices and work hard for anything, you always want the best possible outcome. However, I think in the grand scheme of things, under-achieving in a race pales in comparison to real life problems. I think it is about perspective and looking at the bigger picture. If you can learn from something then it becomes feedback, not a failure.

What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?

Focus on your own goals.

What are your goals for 2017?

The early season's successes came as a real surprise but now I’m working on targeting the Autumn Duathlon season. I also have big goals for 2018, which are my main focus.

Who do you take inspiration from?

I had the privilege of being taught to swim at a young age by Marc Wood. He was on his own journey to a first Para-Olympics in Barcelona 1992 and was teaching at my local swimming pool, Putney Leisure Centre. After a successful Games, Marc came down to the pool one last time, tapped me on my head during a session, and as I got out of the pool, he let me hold his Olympic medal. I think it was silver or bronze at the time, either way I still remember the weight of it, and I know he has gone on to win Gold since.

This represented the ultimate in overcoming adversity to achieve something great. I would say I also take huge inspiration from watching the London Marathon, which I do religiously every year! I’m always there early to watch the Elites right through to Club runners and then people raising huge amounts for charity! I always try and make it home for 6pm to watch the highlights on TV. It’s by far my favourite day of the year, other than Christmas.

What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of kit?

I’m so proud to be an ambassador for Sundried. I’m hugely respectful of a brand that has ethics at its core. One thing I love about Sport is that it allows the individual to explore nature; from the lakes in which we swim, to the forests we run and bike through, the environment gives us so much. It’s so important that Sundried actively has the environment and people at the centre of its ethics. I’m really looking forward to competing at the highest level with the support of a brand who invests in people and wholeheartedly believes in the powerful message that ethics and sports can bring into lives. 

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