If I Can Do It, You Can Do It!
So many times in my life I saw someone achieve something and I thought "if he can do it, I can do it!". That's how I became a professional poker player back in 2005 and I'm still the highest ranked Hungarian female in the world of poker. I finished 13th at the WSOP World Championships in 2009. Before I started learning the rules of the game of poker I had met a friend of my then-boyfriend-now-husband who had been making millions of dollars from playing online poker and I thought "if he can do it, I can do it!".
Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 1st Place, 2010
That is also how I became a runner and a triathlete. I since confessed to most of these friends that they were my inspiration to start a journey that became a lifestyle. My goal is that when some of my friends (or even strangers) see what I achieve they start thinking "if she can do it, I can do it!" - be that exercise, weight loss, perseverance or any other life achievement.
When someone looks at the end results it is easy to say "I could never do that" but you always need to see how gradually that result came about. I didn't start out my poker career or my triathlon racing at the World Championship level. You can see from the pictures how I got better and fitter year after year. I love comparing my first running photo to where I am now.
After my first daughter was born I went to a "mom and baby" fitness class where I met two amazing ladies who had already done a few running races. Never in my life before it occurred to me that you can actually enter a running race for fun. I had never done any sports before except some horseback riding but not at a competitive level. So when my not-so-athletic self realized that I could actually enter a real race - even if only with the intent of participating and not actually racing - it opened a whole new world to me.
I registered for my first 10km road race with barely any training. I was always the kind who could do the distance - just not with any kind of speed. So I finished in 1 hour and 18 minutes and I was hooked.
I signed up for a half marathon for later that year and looked up a free app that had a training plan. It said I needed to run a minimum of 4 days a week, most of the runs being 30-40 mins. I can totally do that! It also said that the pre-requisite for the slowest training plan was that I could run 10 km in 1 hour and 10 mins. Oh well, I'll get there during the plan... (I did!).
I was shooting for a 2 hour 30 min half marathon time with my plan and I finished my race in 2 hours and 27 mins. It seemed to be working!
In the meantime I saw a few other friends whom I knew from poker, starting to do triathlons. My good friends, twin brothers, both finished an Ironman-distance triathlon. Then there was this kid, who became a Poker World Champion and he was 117 kgs (257 lbs) when he did. Right there in Las Vegas he made a bet with another World Champion, a friend of his, that he would finish an Ironman distance triathlon within 5 years. The stake was $100,000. And he won.
Poker World Champion, Péter Gelencsér, later Ironman finisher
This put the idea of finishing an Ironman in my head. I was friends with these guys and played poker with them, traveled with them, they were real human beings who showed me that no previous athletic background is required. You can just put your mind to it and do it.
Péter Gelencsér, Poker World Champion, finishing his first Ironman race
So I set my app for the marathon next. It still only required 4 runs a week. I can do that! It promised me a finish time of under 5 hours. I finished that first marathon in 4 hours and 59 minutes! What next? I've never biked in my life and although I can swim, I'm super slow. I'm confident, but really really slow.
So I borrowed a bike from a friend. I posted the question on my Facebook if anyone had a bike that I could borrow and this friend happened to have a tri bike sitting in her garage unused. (I still have it!)
The borrowed bike was way too big for me but it served me well
Then the next step was to check if I could do the swim distance. And I could. Well within the cutoff time. Ok, so let's not worry about the swim any more. I set my app for another marathon so at least I have a training plan for the run part of my Ironman, threw in a bike ride every week and a swim every month or so. That was it.
I still didn't have a proper triathlon training plan, which, by now I know, you can just download from the internet for free or buy a book with a lot of different plans. At least I had a running training plan!
So 2.5 years after that first 10k race, in November 2017 I finished my first Ironman!
Ironman Maryland, 2017
Before I got to that point though, I already knew that it would probably not be the end goal. I loved the whole thing and wanted to get better and this was the point when it turned more serious for me and I started working with a coach in 2018.
Even from there it was a gradual process to get to the point where I am now, but it gave me structure and I discovered a whole new world of triathlon and running which is the ranks of the competitive amateurs. I'm very happy with where I am now, I know I can still get better and I feel that I'm putting in exactly as much effort and time that fits my lifestyle to still have enough time for my family and my work - which both have higher priority in my life than triathlon... or at least family does for sure!
In 2019 I became the North-American 10km road running champion for the 40-44 age group, I qualified for the 70.3 Ironman World Championship and competed there and I came 12th at the ITU Long Course World Championship in my age group. In 2020 I won the Hungarian Long Course National Championship overall female title.
So if you are just considering going out for a 30-min run that is a perfect start. And if the pace is 7:30 min/km (12 min/mile) or even slower, that is exactly how I started in 2015. If I could do it, you can do it!
Hungarian Long Course National Championship, 1st Place Overall Female, 2020