Cindy Brown will celebrate her 10th triathlon at Johnson & Johnson TriRock Philadelphia
Cindy Brown signed up for her first Olympic distance triathlon on a dare. Even on a scrappy bike, she was determined to keep pace with her male colleagues on their finely tuned equipment.
By the time she reached the finish line, she had fallen in love with the race, the course and the feeling of accomplishment. The 10th anniversary of Johnson & Johnson TriRock Philadelphia Triathlon Presented by Philadelphia Insurance Companies on June 22 will also be her 10th triathlon in Philadelphia. She is one of only 15 athletes with that distinction.
“At that first race, I had someone special in my life who believed I could do it, even when I doubted,” Brown said. “In the years that followed, every mile of the race served some sort of memory – of the times I doubted I would finish, and of the times I found the inner strength to do it on my own. It’s become a very emotional race for me.”
“I also fell in love with fitness along the way, and realized that’s what I wanted my career to be as well,” Brown said.
That first year, Brown became a personal trainer and built up a clientele while continuing to work at Merrill Lynch with the financial advisors who had first dared her to get in the water. Within four years, she was able to leave the office world to fulfill her dream as a personal trainer and race coach.
“Every day I get to train people all along the TriRock course,” she said. She lives and works in the museum district and holds a 70-person boot camp on the Art Museum steps.
“When I began to share this race with clients, I learned that they too had personal stories that brought them to fitness, then to triathlon,” she said. “Races, like fitness, have a way of bringing up your personal struggles and making you face your demons and disappointments. On race day you look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, ‘Am I going to beat it, or let it beat me?’”
“I believe it’s that personal commitment to yourself, the accomplishment of overcoming your greatest challenges, that makes participants go from running their first 5K all the way to a marathon; and from having a fear of swimming to taking on the TriRock Philadelphia Triathlon,” she said.
“I realize now that that first race was a pivotal moment for me. It changed my life, and I’m fortunate to share my passion with others who want to get fit and learn to race well.”
Brown is a Philadelphia girl, so the race course – her training course – is near and dear to her heart. She loves the scenic bike route and the run toward the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “And it’s a real badge of honor to have swam in the Schuylkill River,” she said.
Brown is one of three owners of CoreFitness, and says her typical clients are women, aged 30-40, some married and with children, who are looking for a physical challenge – a confidence and strength-building activity that gives them a goal, like a triathlon that requires months of training.
“I tell them, ‘stay in your head, you’re good enough to be out there. Don’t compare yourself to others at the race.’”
Remembering that she has raced with all sorts of equipment – from wet suits with holes, and borrowed bikes, to a custom-made bike that fit her body, she adds, “I know that those things never make a difference in whether I’ll have a good race.”
“To know that you trained hard, and you’re pacing yourself well for each of the three challenges (swim, bike, run), and that you’re so happy to be there – that’s what gets you across the finish line. I’m still exhilarated when I finish, and I can see that feeling on the faces of the people I’ve trained as they come up Martin Luther King Boulevard. We’re true believers.”
Brown has had some difficult years when she didn’t think she’d make the annual race. “But I couldn’t let myself down,” she said. “I love this race, and every year, after training people all year, this race is for me.”
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