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Today we catch up with two of Australia’s Ironman icons, Belinda and Justin Granger. The couple, married for 12 years and racing and traveling the world together for over 20 years, just can’t seem to get enough of triathlon’s good life.
Triathlete.com: You do the majority of your racing in the Asia-Pacific region. What does it mean to you to have such a marquee added to the Ironman lineup, not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but actually in your home country?
BG: We’ve actually come full circle. We started our careers doing a lot of racing in Australia and Asia, and then we sort of moved away and raced a bit more in Europe and the U.S., and now we’ve both come back to racing mostly Asia-Pacific. I think now that were a little bit older the travel’s a little bit harder. It’s so much better for us to try and choose races in Australia and in Asia because the time difference is so little and it really makes the travel easier.
JG: Yeah, we’ve always loved Asia because obviously it’s close to home, and a lot of the racing in Asia is tough. Conditions are hard and there are a lot of little things that could go good or bad, but we’ve learned to deal with those so that’s what has drawn us back to the Asia-Pacific races. To have a massive race like Ironman Melbourne here in Australia, where we really don’t have to travel far, is a massive bonus.
BG: Because we’re fit! We’ve had a massive good three months of summer. It might not be an ideal early season race for Americans coming off winter, but for us its perfect. And from a professional perspective its brilliant – you look at the calendar now and being from Australia as a professional you don’t have to leave the country anymore if you don’t want to. That’s a massive plus as a professional. For pros that might not have the funding to travel overseas, they can stay in Australia and make a reasonable living.
Triathlete.com: Just how good is your life, being able to do this together?
JG: You just have to take a look at us. I’m 40, Belinda’s 41, and we’re still doing it and we have no intention of dropping out!
BG: Yeah, we love it! It’s a way of life for us. I don’t even say it’s a profession. I mean obviously it is, but we look at it as our lifestyle choice.
JG: We started off as amateurs, traveled the world following the age-group championships, extended that a little further and started doing Ironman, then we turned pro and we’ve never looked back.
BG: The funny thing is, Justin started Ironman first in 1996. He was the first one to do the distance. I was not interested whatsoever! Even after going to Hawaii in ‘96, ‘97 to watch him, I was still not interested. I loved watching it, but I was into short course and half Ironman’s. But now – I’ll have to add it up after race day, but I’m close to having done 46 or 47 Ironman’s!
JG: I haven’t hit 40 yet. I’ve started well over 40, but finishing I haven’t hit 40 yet. Although this could actually be the 40th – we’ll have to work it out!
BG: People always ask when we’re going to retire. I used to think 40 sounded like a good round number, so I thought we’d probably do it then. Well, 40 came and went! I’ll be 42 at the end of this year and I just can’t see hanging it up. Neither of us will ever retire from this sport – we’ll always be involved.
JG: We did things a little bit differently – we started in the amateur ranks and did our careers outside of triathlon. We did that early – I mean I worked for 15 years, Belinda worked for 13 years, and then we turned pro. Whereas a lot of the guys start in the junior ranks, go straight into the pro ranks, and then they’ve got to look for something else after. We’ve seen what a real job is like and we don’t want to go back! I know that was 10 years ago but I’m still haunted by the thought of going back to an office desk!
Triathlete.com: During a race, how important is it to be able to see each other out there? Ironman Melbourne will be a bit different with the point-to-point marathon.
BG: I don’t think Justin needs it as much. When Justin races he’s out there on his own in his own little world, whereas for me, you can tell from my personality that I thrive off that. I love seeing where he is in the race and just getting a smile from him, or just a nod of the head – because he’s not like me, he doesn’t talk and waste energy! But just a nod of the head or any sort of recognition, it really drives me. I’ve always been that sort of person. So yeah, this will be different, but in a way it will be good. Because with a lot of our races, often it’s about my career and he comes second. He’ll be racing but also focused on my race. So here it will be nice for him to not think about me and just do his own thing.
JG: [laughs] I can be anywhere in the world and I don’t even have to expend a thought of what Belinda is doing. She has so many fans, there is always someone on the sidelines who won’t even look at my race, they’ll just yell at me, “Belinda’s coming 2nd! Belinda’s coming 3rd! Belinda’s four minutes out of the lead!” I’m like, “Ok, I didn’t ask, but thank you!” I always know.
BG: Another thing is having the separate pro start for the men and women. That’s something I’m really happy about. You know, he wants to have his own race and I want to have mine, and starting two minutes apart is just brilliant. Full congrats to Shane Smith [WTC’s Managing Director for Australia] for making it happen here. Hopefully all the other Ironman’s will follow. It’s fantastic and I think it will make a big difference to the women’s race.
Triathlete.com: What do you suggest outside of the race to international athletes who have traveled to Melbourne?
JG: As far as Melbourne goes, this is the epicenter of culture in Australia. There are so many nationalities assembled here, what that brings to this region is so many different varieties of food experiences. Some of the best restaurants and bars are here. We’re not from this part of the country, but the best thing is to ask a local where to eat.
BG: Because we started as age-groupers, and it was always as much about the place and what it had to offer and not just the race itself, we still do that. Even for us now, my parents are down here and we’ve already mapped out what we want to do after the race. I can’t wait for Tuesday to go and visit some of the vineyards down on the Mornington Peninsula. That’s our thing for Tuesday – to find a really lovely vineyard with a nice restaurant!