Raised in one of the endurance sport capitals of South Africa, it’s not surprising that talented triathlete James Cunnama has been pushing himself to the limit in marathons since he was just 16. A member of teamTBB since January 2009, the 29-year-old South African’s main focus is the Ironman triathlon, and he was the 2010 Florida Ironman champion.
Growing up with sporting parents and living in the city of Pietermaritzburg, a multi-sport region, Cunnama has competition running through his veins. Both of his parents have completed multiple Comrades Marathons and Dusi Canoe Marathons, so Cunnama discovered the joys of long distance running at a young age. While most of his peers were staying up late and sleeping in, he was motivated enough to get up on cold, dark winter mornings for pre-dawn runs with his mother’s running group, an eclectic bunch of much older runners with the rather delightful name "The Pukers."
Cunnama soon discovered that he had a talent for endurance sports and the longer the race, the better he fared, so he began to focus on long-distance running. By the tender age of 16, Cunnama was completing half-marathons and easily winning the junior category at a number of local races. When he moved to Port Elizabeth in 2002 to study a degree in Human Movement Science at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Cunnama decided to refocus his attention to middle-distance track running in order to improve his speed over all distances.
His interest in triathlons didn’t begin until 2004, when the Spec-Savers Half-Ironman came to Port Elizabeth for the first time and Cunnama was drafted into the volunteer ranks to assist in race-day organization. When the Ironman came to town the following year, Cunnama became more involved in assisting with the competition. He credits this first-hand encounter with one of the toughest single-day endurance events in the world with inspiring him to want to get out there himself and complete a triathlon.
A few years later, Cunnama realized his ambition to be a triathlete and came second in the 2009 Ironman Austria. The motivated Cunnama followed this up with a spectacular 2010 in which he took out the Ironman Florida, the Ironman 70.3 in Austin, Texas, the Alpe D'Huez Triathlon in France and the Rev3 Cedar Point in Ohio. He placed second in the Challenge Kraichgua, the Ironman 70.3 in Singapore, the Ironman 70.3 in South Africa, and the Embrunman Triathlon in France. In 2011, he won the Rev3 Quassy Half, and came second in the Ironman 70.3 South Africa, the Ironman 70.3 Singapore and the Columbia Triathlon. In 2012, he won the Challenge Roth in with an Ironman personal best time of 7:59:59.
Asked what he likes to do to relax, Cunnama responds, "Long walks on the beach (seriously) and lots of television!" His personal motto is, "Strive to be right now both the best you've ever been, and the worst you'll ever be!"
||Ironman 70.3 Cozumel
||Ironman 70.3 Miami
||Ironman 70.3 South Africa
||Ironman South Africa
||Ironman World Champs 2013