Despite being told by her podiatrist after foot surgery that she would never run again, Umhlanga’s Lauren Cannon has proved everyone wrong. Not only did she finish first in the KZN Olympic distance triathlon champs recently, but now she has her sights set on earning a professional Ironman Licence.
The operation was a success and your foot looks beautiful, but the damage will be permanent and I am not certain you will ever be able to run again. With a lot of hard work, you may be able to run a very slow 5km, but you will never be able to race again.”
These were the words 33-year-old Lauren heard from her specialist podiatrist after an operation in June last year. Fast forward to just over a year later, and Lauren crossed the finish line of the KZN Olympic distance Triathlon Champs in first place at her personal best time of two hours, six minutes. She biked her fastest 40kms with a 38km/h average speed, came out of the water with a one-minute lead, extended that lead to six minutes on the bike and then a seven-minute lead over the next best woman in the run. She beat the next woman by an incredible seven minutes.
Early last year the mother of two, who has always been interested in competitive sports, experienced an almost life-changing injury, which caused her to take a break from training to have surgery to fix the damage.
Six months later, after what seemed like a lifetime of physio and rehabilitation, Lauren’s foot started to look normal again. She got the ‘all clear’ from her doctor in November last year to put on her cycling shoes, however he wasn’t convinced she could compete again. Just over two weeks later, Lauren could do her first 1km run. In January Lauren hit the start line of KZN Triathlon champs, expecting nothing but a finish.
“I was very unprepared, I didn’t have a wetsuit, aero helmet or bike, only a tri suit that was bought that morning – I just wanted to feel normal again and compete. I was ecstatic with an overall win at KZN Champs and knew then and there I was ready to make a comeback!”
Lauren grew up in a sporty home (her father was a marathon runner) and says sport was something she was always exposed to.
“I have always enjoyed sport and competing, but I knew it was imperative to study and start life as a “normal responsible adolescent’, so I never allowed myself the opportunity to explore the life of a professional athlete. Racing and training at this level is unbelievably time-consuming and, to do so, I have had to make sure my life is run on a strict routine.”
Lauren trains between 15 and 18 hours a week (which is split between swimming, cycling and running and three hours of strength work at the gym). She also trains with her husband Michael, whom she met on the podium at Ironman in East London in 2015. The couple have two daughters, Scarlett who is four-and-a-half, and two-and-a-half-year-old Stella.
“My injury has taught me that nothing is impossible, your mind is extremely strong and you can achieve anything you want with hard work and dedication. I am not scared of getting injured again as I have come so far, and although I love racing, achieving and training, it’s not the B-all-and-end-all. I have two beautiful girls, a loving husband, a job and a life after racing and being an athlete. I have learnt to take each day as it comes and just be grateful that I am able to get to each start line and walk and run without pain.”
Lauren’s goal is to stand on the podium at the 70.3 Ironman world champs in France in September and then go on to earn her professional Ironman Licence to race as a professional athlete on the world circuit.
Text: MONIQUE DE VILLIERS-DELPORT | Photographs: JETHRO SNYDERS PHOTOGRAPHY