Abu Dhabi // India's first elite Ironman athlete, Anu Vaidyanathan-Ahuja, is hoping she can inspire women in the Arabian Gulf when she makes her regional debut at next month's Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
Vaidyanathan-Ahuja, 32, became both the first Indian athlete to qualify for a 70.3 World Championship event and the first Asian to finish an Ultraman (10km swim, 420km bike and 84.4km run), when she was sixth at Ultraman Canada 2009.
And the Bangalore-based athlete is encouraging other women to get active and motivated by sport.
"Start gradually and enjoy the process. I see too many people try to cram everything in, in a huge rush and end up burning out. It is important to build a love for the sport into the process," she said.
"I got started very, very gradually. I used to bike to school as a child and started running when I was 17. I used to run to stay fit, lose some weight and also to try and impress a boy.
"Then I started riding my bike to college and between classes and work, as it was the best mode of transport. Swimming was an afterthought and I slowly built things up and put them together - there was no miracle or overnight transformation - it was a very gradual process," added Vaidyanathan-Ahuja, who has a doctorate and runs her own property consultancy company, while still finding time to train.
"I see myself being remembered as the hardest working athlete in the sport, literally, I hold two jobs, and someone who never lets the intimidation of a difficult path stop her from trying.
"I could not have dreamt in my wildest dreams that I would ever complete an Ultraman so, more power to daydreaming," she said.
Vaidyanathan-Ahuja is one out of 10 athletes invited to compete in the fourth year of the event as part of organiser, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority's competition to find the most inspirational stories in the sport. The event received over 100 entries from triathletes globally.
The 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, on March 2, starts with a swim off Abu Dhabi's public beach, before a bike ride on the closed roads along the Corniche Beach, up to Yas Island and around the Yas Marina Circuit – before returning to the heart of the UAE capital for the run.
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