Sault Stryders
Running Club

Former couch potato driven to compete
Reported July 27, 2011 by Mike Verdone for The Sault Star
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Marg Meincke was an overweight couch potato when she met her future husband, Frank, in university nearly 40 years ago.

He encouraged her to lace on runners and join him for a short run, which lasted for about a block.

But those first few strides put Meincke on a path that changed her life and trans-formed her into an athlete who trains daily, and has competed at dozens of triathlons over the past two-plus decades.

She now participates in three, sometimes four triathlons each season.

"This is my 22nd year," says the 57-year-old Sault woman who grew up in Belleville, Ont., but has lived in the Sault for more than 30 years.

Despite being so active, when she first met Frank during her third year at Queens University in Kingston, Ont., she was the proverbial couch potato.

"I was the total opposite. Picture a couch potato with lots of chips and chocolate bars and pop. That was me in high school," says Meincke, who is a part-time teacher. " Picture the most unfit, most heavy person you could think of. That was me."

Meincke says she was always the last one to be picked when sports teams were chosen.

"I was 40-pounds overweight, I was unhealthy. I wasn't feeling good. I had low self-esteem."

All that began to change when she hooked up with Frank, who was slim, tall and very fit. He was a cross-country runner in high school at Sault Collegiate and also played soccer and basketball. Shortly after they met, Frank suggested Marg try running.

"And I thought, OK, I can do this. But I couldn't run to the first block without stopping. I went through so much pain because I didn't know the importance of good shoes. I had shin splints so bad that I couldn't walk," says the mother of three adult children. " I had no idea what Frank was getting me into. I don't think he knew either."

Despite the shin splints, Marg run with Frank and slowly began to lose weight and feel better.

When she met people she knew from high school, they couldn't believe it was her, she says.

She trained for the five-kilo-metre portion of The Sault Star Fall Colour Run when it was first staged more than 30 years ago. It was the first race she ever ran, and it was just the beginning.

In 1989 she competed in her first triathlon, which was part of a Steel Man event held at Point des Chenes Park. There were three components to the Steel Man that season, a run-bike-run event, a triathlon, and a second run-bike-run.

Meincke had been running for years by then and was eager to enter all three events.

"I thought, 'Hey, run-bike-run, I can do all that. I'm going to try it.'"

When she told Frank what she intended to do, he wasn't supportive.

"Frank said I was crazy to even attempt it."

She wasn't deterred. Meincke borrowed a bicycle from a neighbour with the intention of possibly using it in all three events. But she didn't have the bike very long.

"Two weeks later I went and bought my own because I had so much fun. And it kind of went from there."

She has yet to miss the annual St. Joseph Island Triathlon. She intends to be at the eighth annual St. Joe event Aug. 13.

Meincke trains every day. Some days she runs, some days she cycles and other days she swims. She might even swim and run, or bike, in the same day. However, her zeal isn't training for triathlons. Her real passion is for cross-country skiing.

"That's my first love. I do all this other stuff so I can stay in shape for skiing. That's the one thing I love the most."

So then what drives her to continually train and compete at triathlons?

"Frank says I'm addicted," she laughs. " I'm just there to say that I can do it, because I love doing this. If I beat somebody else who is young, well, that makes me feel even better ... But I'm not there to compete against them. I'm just there because I want to do it."

Meincke says people who don't compete in triathlons probably don't understand what drives her. In fact, they might think she's a little unstable.

"My neighbours see me going out every day and they think I'm crazy."