A mum of two who took up running just over two years ago to get back into shape after giving birth has claimed her second consecutive silver medal at the long distance triathlon amateur world championships.
Sophie Bubb, 36, took the runner-up spot at the International Triathlon Union’s Long Distance World Championships in Penticton, Canada, consolidating her position as one of the very best amateur long distance triathletes in the world.
She finished the exhausting course – a 1.9-mile (3km) swim, 75-mile (120km) bike and 19-mile (30km) run – in six hours, 40 minutes and 30 seconds, just one minute and 56 seconds behind winner Jaime Simmons from the USA and over 26 minutes ahead of 3rd place Johanna Hudson from Canada.
Incredibly Bubb, from Lymington in Hampshire, only started running in May 2015 as a way of recovering from the birth of her second son Billy, now two years old.
The pregnancy left her so weak she could hardly walk thanks to severe back pain and separated abdominal muscles, but she forced herself to get fit again by jogging in the New Forest.
She then set her sights on competing in – and finishing – an Ironman-distance competition in September 2015 purely for the challenge, and while still on maternity leave.
However not only did she complete the European long distance world championships course in Weymouth but won her age group and finished as the highest-ranking non-professional female.
Spurred on by the shock result Bubb launched herself into serious 20-hour-a-week training, all the time juggling her home life looking after Billy and her eldest son Rory, three, alongside husband Nick.
She started sharing her experiences on social media using the pseudonym ‘Mum on the Run’ – and soon amassed a following of more than 7,000 fans.
In what has been an incredible two years, Bubb has twice been crowned UK amateur Ironman champion, twice won age-group silver (2nd and 3rd amateur overall) at the long distance triathlon world championships and twice qualified for the legendary Ironman world championship in Hawaii.
“This result has left me with mixed feelings,” Bubb said. “Winning a silver medal at a world championship is clearly very special but it wasn’t what we came over here for. Ultimately Jaime was just very slightly better than me on the day and I just couldn’t quite match her pace on the run. My performance and times were actually better than we’d hoped so I need to recognise that, and I’m sure I’ll be happier once everything has calmed down. There were big pluses I really enjoyed the day, I came away injury free and excited to race again.”
Bubb, who currently tops the Ironman All World Athlete rankings for her age group, will now turn her attention to the Ironman world championships in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14.
The hope is then to wrap up the year with a final long distance race at Ironman Western Australia in December. This is one of the fastest courses in the world and the main goal is to finish in under ten hours, which very few amateur females have ever achieved.
Bubb also plans to branch out into surfing, entering competitions held in the UK.
“We have a family holiday for a week now and then it will be back into a solid training programme as I build towards the Ironman World Championships,” Bubb added. “Pretty much everybody in the ultra-endurance world is either there or has it as a goal, so the standard is insane. Just to qualify is massive but this year I hope to challenge the top ten in my age group and who knows what will actually happen on the day. The heat and humidity there is incredible and the balance between pushing hard and surviving the day is extremely delicate!”
Bubb’s incredible performances, coupled with her unusual story and huge following on social media, has meant that she has been very successful in attracting backing.
Since qualifying for the Ironman Worlds last year she has been sponsored by Z Hotels, the growing UK-based hotel chain.
She has also had the backing of the Beaulieu Beaufort Foundation for the last two years, and has slowly acquired a whole collection of important technical partners and suppliers.