Feature - Mae Palm 

An Ironwoman of iron will

Marathons and triathlons keep Mae Palm on the straight and narrow

Don’t believe that old adage, says local triathlete Mae Palm: You can, indeed, teach an old dog new tricks.

Palm, 61, has completed 98 marathons in the past 19 years and just recently passed a major milestone in her life when she not only competed in, but finished first place in her age category in the 2001 Ironman Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on Oct. 6. Battling wind gusts of up to 50 mph and temperatures in the high 80s, Palm conquered the 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike race and 26.2-mile run with voracious determination.

For Palm, her most recent victory is a dream come true.

"I didn’t expect to win (the Ironman)," she said. "I was so happy just to get there… winning was the icing on the cake. It was a very long day and anything could have happened."

Palm, who finished the Ironman Championship course in a time of 14:46.55 – an hour ahead of her closest contender – was the only Canadian in her age category at this year’s championships, beating out the four Americans also vying for top spot in the women’s 60-64 age group. Her win was even more meaningful in that this year’s race should have been her second run at the championships.

"I qualified last year for the championships in Hawaii, but I had just spent a lot of money to compete in the Penticton Ironman and afterwards, there was no money left, so I couldn’t go to Hawaii."

After the 2000 situation, word quickly got out in Whistler, where Palm works, and a couple of stalwarts in the local business community pitched in to make sure that Palm would realize her dream in 2001. With financial support in the bank, Palm was able to take her dream to Hawaii. She hasn’t looked back since.

Palm started her amazing journey nearly 25 years ago. At the age of 37 she was somewhat of a late bloomer on the running scene. She started small, building endurance over the years.

"I started running when I was 37," she recalls. "I did it mainly for health reasons… I’m only 4’11" and I had just started driving a car… I didn’t want to become as wide as I am tall," she laughs. "It’s truly amazing how important exercise is to your health."

Palm was living in Squamish when she began her new voyage. With her sneakers laced up and her feet firmly in place, she conquered her first running venture – a quarter-mile spurt around the field at Mamquam Elementary School. It was almost enough of a grind to have her hang up her running shoes… almost.


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