In 2006, while studying in Port Elizabeth, James Cunnama borrowed a friend’s bike and completed his first duathlon and then his first triathlon three weeks later. In 2007, he completed his first ironman, where he came 21st, 10th the next year, and turned pro in 2009.
What He Did
Cunnama had a strong foundation for becoming a full-time athlete. “I spent my whole life dreaming of being a professional runner, I grew up watching the Comrades,” he told MH.
Cunnama and triathlons clicked instantly. “It was something that the mind and the body was primed to go after. All that passion and the dream of being a pro athlete just got shifted into being a triathlete instead of a runner.”
Related: How to Train For a Triathlon
James’ personal best in the ironman competitions was on home soil where he finished with a time of 8:13:18 to take third place. His most significant podium finish was the first place in the Florida Ironman when he came back from a notorious setback on the cycling leg.
How He Improves
Cunnama’s team’s training schedule is fairly flexible. “We have a pattern for ten days or so that we rotate through, but even that is very variable. Our training schedule can depend on travel, races or just a little niggle.
“The advantage with triathlons is that there are three disciplines, so if you have a niggle on the bike, you can stay off the bike and do a bit more running and swimming for a couple of days. You try to have a balance between all three – some hard stuff in each of them but also some easy stuff in-between each of them to recover.”
How You Can Improve
“You have to find that balance between an important goal and the fact that it’s just another day,” says Cunnama. “You’ve got to go after it and put all the work in, but you’ve also got to relax and let it happen because it will happen if you put the work in. Winding yourself up ends up being a negative thing and you end up not achieving your potential. If you just relax, it will happen because you’ve done the work.”