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This nine-time Ironman champion and Cervélo P5 rider is no stranger to adversary. After being diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2005 and learning she would never run marathons competitively, she went against doctor’s orders and traded in her running career for triathlon.

A SPEEDY START

Five years after leaving her job as a marketing director to pursue triathlon professionally, Mary Beth joined Team TBB in 2011. Coach Brett Sutton immediately recognized her talent for long-distance triathlon, which they worked together to hone to remarkable effect. Indeed, she stormed her way into Ironman with a 2011 debut of just over 8:43 at Ironman Austria, smashing the rookie record, the American record and the course record that day.

RECORDS FALL

Since then, Mary Beth has quickly pushed her way to the front of the sport, winning four of her first five Ironman starts and breaking three course records, including the 20-year-old high water mark at Ironman Canada. 2015 was a particularly strong year for Mary Beth, with victories at the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships in Motola, Sweden, and at Ironman Mont Tremblant. In so doing, she built on her reputation for battling through adverse conditions and personal setbacks. No wonder her nickname is “Honey Badger.”

POSITIVE INFLUENCE

Yet, as tough as she is on the course, she is well known for her light-hearted, girl-next-door personality off the course. "I try not to take myself too seriously. I'm just grateful to have a chance to do what I love for a living because it seemed like it wasn’t even a possibility just a few years ago," she says. "The sport inspires so many people. I have seen so many amazing stories of people overcoming everything – cancer, obesity, anxiety – with the help of triathlon. My biggest wish it that what I do can, in some small way, add to that legacy and inspire other women like me to try the sport."

She even used a 2013 crash for a good cause: To raise money for the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, the largest and oldest non-profit group for sports injury research in the U.S.

Website: marybethellisracing.com

Twitter: @marybethellis

Facebook: www.facebook.com/marybethellisracinghttps://www.facebook.com/marybethellisracing

Mary Beth Ellis