Having flown all the way from Qatar back to Malaysia and chosen Challenge Putri Iskandar for her maiden triathlon, Hani Ahmad Kamal is indeed the “honeybee” that craves for adventure.
Born in Kuala Lumpur but raised in Johor Bahru, this mother of four kids – boys aged 11 and 9, girls aged 10 and 7 – has that tenacity and hunger to excel in her pursuits, while balancing her role as a mum.
Although she had been active since young, the current drive has been inspired by her husband who was overweight and started exercising for better health. That journey started with someone who was not able to run a single kilometer, to someone who completed an IRONMAN race.
ToughASIA: What inspired you to take up triathlon?
Hani: My husband. It was at his first IRONMAN race in Port Elizabeth South Africa. He brought me and our youngest baby to support him. The vibes and atmosphere were so amazing that I told him “one day I will join him”. But first, I had to join a swim class.
ToughASIA: What keeps you motivated to train now, even when there are no races?
Hani: I just want to maintain my fitness. I train almost every day with some light strength training, and my coach always knows how to motivate me with his words.
ToughASIA: Where are your favourite running and cycling?
Hani: For cycling, it was the Putrajaya-KLIA route before the lockdown. But now, I mostly cycle indoors via the online cycling platform, Zwift. For running, my favourite routes are in Kuala Lumpur – Bukit Tunku for some hilly training and Titiwangsa for flats, and of course, my treadmill.
ToughASIA: What is the most memorable race you have competed in?
Hani: It has to be my first triathlon – Challenge Iskandar Puteri 2017. I had a fear of open water and barely learnt how to swim for a month then.
At that time, my coach took me to swim at in the sea everyday leading to the race to overcome my fear. The triathlon training was more demanding than that of a marathon.
It was pure blood, sweat and tears literally. We were living in Qatar at that time, and I had to travel for the race alone. My husband had to look after our four kids who could not take time off from school. Finishing that 1.9 km swim in my very first triathlon and the training for it was unforgettable.
ToughASIA: What is your proudest moment in running or triathlon?
Hani: For running, I achieved my target to run a marathon under sub-4 hours, at Rock n Roll Washington Marathon and started triathlon from a zero swim base.
I can say my little achievements somehow inspired many other mums among the Malaysian community to take up sports and for that, I received a special recognition from the Malaysian Association committee.
ToughASIA: How do you manage between training and family?
Hani: My husband is now working in Vietnam and we do not have a maid. So I have to manage my time wisely. I train after dropping the kids at school or after their bedtime around 8.30pm. It really is juggling between house chores, running errands and training.
On weekends, I will hire a nanny to look after them if i have to go out for long runs or rides. I will still try to spend the afternoon and evening with the kids, taking them to the parks or movies for family time.
ToughASIA: Do any of your children participate in running?
Hani: Yes, they love running! When there is a race, they will ask me to coach them and bring them out to the track or park near our house. My daughter did join running races at school and she was a part of the school softball team.
ToughASIA: Are you part of any support group, club or team for mothers or women who participate in sports?
Hani: I used to have a very close support group called Trisisters and Mad Triathlon Triathlon club when I was in Qatar. I really miss the kinship and support. For now, I do not belong to any moms’ club. But if there is a one, I would love to join.
ToughASIA: Are you looking forward to any race in particular in 2021 and beyond?
Hani: I wanted to improve myself especially for my weakness in swimming. I am really thankful to have a very patient coach to teach and correct my swimming skills.
Actually, I was looking forward to the Powerman race. It would have been my first race in this year. But, due to the pandemic, I just do not think of any races right now.
And also, I am looking forward to make a comeback for my triathlon race and finish a full IRONMAN race before I turn 40. But my ultimate long term goal is to qualify for Boston Marathon.
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ToughASIA: What is your sporting advice for all mothers out there?
Hani: Exercise is good to stay healthy and keep fit not only to lose weight. Health is gold. As a mother, we have to look after ourselves. If we are healthy, we will automatically have a happy body and mind. Don’t be ashamed of body sizes. What’s important is to be healthy.