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Safa Learnt Swimming In 4 Months To Complete IRONMAN Langkawi

From spectator to IRONMAN triathlon athlete: Safa Marwah. (Instagram)

Safa Marwah’s first “taste” of triathlon was in Langkawi, cheering her brother to complete the IRONMAN race. Since then, she turned from a spectator to a very passionate athlete.

The Penang-born civil servant based in Putrajaya met the Chap Ayam Triathletes – now known as Contingent of Amateur Triathletes (CAT) and started training with them. Little did she expect to evolve into one of the committee members, a very passionate one.

So how did Safa get from spectator to an IRONMAN athlete? ToughASIA just had to find out from this spectacular lady.

ToughASIA: How did you get involved in triathlon?

Safa: It all began in 2016 when I watched my younger brother from Penang completed his IRONMAN race in Langkawi.

I was very impressed watching him crossing the finish line that night after almost a long day suffering those three disciplines. After he told the story of how he prepared for the race, I was inspired.

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I bought my first triathlon bike at the end of 2017 and started cycling with friends in Putrajaya until I met a bunch of people who called themselves Chap Ayam Triathletes, now known as Contingent of Amateur Triathletes (CAT). In 2018, they invited me to be the runner for their relay team and that was an unforgettable experience crossing the IRONMAN finish line for the first time in my life.

In 2019, I was offered a slot for the full distance IRONMAN Malaysia Langkawi and I decided to take up the challenge.

I learnt swimming in just 4 months, rode long distances with the group for more than 100km every week, did a lot of LSDs and kept maintaining my health and fitness for the race.

Alhamdulillah (thank god), I managed to complete my first full distance IRONMAN Malaysia Langkawi race in that year.

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ToughASIA: Where are your favourite training locations for running or cycling?

Safa: There are 2 favourite running locations in Putrajaya. For strength training, I choose Taman Saujana Hijau at Precinct 11 because the route is quite hilly and the scenery is very comforting. For distance and endurance training, I prefer Palace of Justice loop where I can get total distances of 10km end-to-end.

For cycling, most of the time I cycle 70km to KLIA and 180km Kuala Kelawang “Broga Jantan loop”, starting from Putrajaya.

ToughASIA: How often do you train and what at distances for each discipline?

Safa: During off-season, I usually go swimming with my coach and training mates for a 3-hour session every Wednesday night, a long steady pace of 60 to 100 km bicycle rides every Sunday, and a minimum of 5 km running twice a week during weekdays and (LSDs of 20 km every Saturday.

However, if there are races coming up, I would do more than that and emphasise on long ride of more than 180km distance at least once a month.

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Safa had her first taste of triathlon with Chap Ayam Triathlete.

ToughASIA: What is your proudest moment in triathlon?

Safa: Completing the full IRONMAN Malaysia Langkawi race in 2019 is my proudest achievement, and that is the happiest moment in my life so far.

ToughASIA: What are your thoughts on virtual races for triathlon? Have you joined any virtual races?

Safa: Yes, I had joined a few virtual races by IRONMAN VR during MCO last year; it was fun but it did not feel complete as swimming in the pool was not allowed then.

However, because of the continuing pandemic situation, I can say that virtual racing is the best option as it can be done anytime and anywhere, it preserves the training momentum, motivation and performance to get ready for the real race.

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ToughASIA: What keeps you going into 2021 and beyond as a triathlete? Are you looking forward to any race in particular?

Safa: I fell in love with the triathlon. For me it is not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle.

I want to improve my performance, shave few more seconds or even hours from my previous timing, all I wanted to see is where my limit is.

I can’t wait to take part in the race, absolutely will be signing up for the first triathlon race after the pandemic is over.

ToughASIA: Would you like to share any other perspective regarding your journey as a triathlete?

Safa: From my point of view, it seems impossible for a person, especially women, to get involved in triathlon before they started it. It happened to me at the start when I felt very scared to ride a bicycle on the road, afraid of getting drowned during swimming or fainting while running; it is natural to be skeptical.

However, if we really believe and commit, start slowly, learn from others’ experiences and keep motivating ourselves by saying “we can”, everything will become possible.

The greatest rival in triathlon is only ourselves. So stay positive all the time, respect and never look down on others.

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