Natasja Barclay – Stories From The Finish Line

Natasja Barclay

Witnessing the remarkable journey of New Zealand's ex-professional triathlete, Natasja Barclay, has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Natasja's story is a testament to resilience, determination, and the indomitable spirit that fuels human achievement.

Natasja's journey began in the late '90s when she competed on the prestigious ITU circuit from 1995 to 1998, showcasing her immense talent and dedication to the sport. However, life had other plans for her. She took a two-decade hiatus from the world of triathlons to focus on her family and career. A break of two decades might seem like an eternity in the world of professional sports, but it was a decision made for all the right reasons.

Then, in 2018, a blazing passion for triathlon racing reignited within her. It was this rekindling of love for the sport that set her on an incredible path of transformation and achievement.

In 2019, Natasja embarked on a quest for a fitness goal that would test not only her physical capabilities but also her mental strength. She was driven by the need to prove that a detected heart arrhythmia wouldn't deter her long-term aspirations. In February of that year, she marked a pivotal moment in her journey by completing her first-ever 70.3 Ironman event. What was initially meant to be a one-time endeavor quickly evolved into a year filled with three additional 70.3 Ironman races, each fueled by her newfound love for the sport.

A twist of fate, triggered by memories of her father racing when she was just 21 years old, led her to consider the ultimate challenge—a full IRONMAN. This contemplation culminated in a life-altering decision to claim a Kona World Championship IRONMAN spot at the IRONMAN 70.3 Hawaii. With only an hour to decide at the awards ceremony, she courageously took the Kona spot.

Her journey to Kona in 2019 was unique—a self-coached path forged by the wisdom of past mentors and enriched by courses from Endure IQ, TriNZ, and IRONMAN University. Race day was surreal, one of those moments when the stars align and everything goes according to plan. Surprisingly, she clinched an impressive 4th place in the fiercely competitive 45-49 age group, crossing the finish line in an impressive 10 hours and 6 minutes. The joy and emotions at the finish line were immeasurable, underscored by the resonance of hearing the triumphant words, “Natasja Barclay, you are an IRONMAN!”

The stories of perseverance and triumph shared by fellow athletes who overcame their own setbacks and hurdles became a source of unwavering inspiration for Natasja. Even amidst the challenging COVID-impacted years of 2020-2022 and setbacks like a hamstring rupture requiring surgery, her determination remained unshaken. The guidance of surgeon Matt Brick, a former world duathlon champion, became a beacon of hope during her recovery.

As Natasja's goals shifted to qualifying for the 2023 IRONMAN World Championships, a new and unexpected challenge emerged in the form of a breast cancer diagnosis in early 2023. In the face of this adversity, she underwent surgery and radiation, demonstrating her unwavering strength and resilience. Remarkably, she participated in the grueling Cape Epic MTB race in South Africa, conquering demanding conditions and technical terrain, and adding new skills to her already impressive repertoire.

Upon returning to New Zealand, Natasja celebrated her 50th birthday and began radiation treatments in late April. Amidst a series of setbacks, her determination to qualify for Kona persisted. Her calculated decision to once again target the IRONMAN 70.3 Hawaii to qualify for Kona paid off remarkably. She achieved a triumphant first place in her age group, securing her spot at Kona in October 2023.

This year's Kona on October 14th represented more than just a race for Natasja; it symbolized her unwavering commitment, mental fortitude, and relentless pursuit of excellence, no matter the odds. Natasja floated down Ali'i Drive to an incredible finish time of 10 hours and 29 minutes, placing her 2nd in the World in the 50-55 age group. Like in 2019, Natasja heard those four words at the finish line again, but this time, she felt their meaning ran much deeper.

This story should forever remind us that, no matter what challenges come our way, we should never abandon our dreams. We should embrace the belief that, with a daily positive attitude and unwavering determination, we can all find our own finish line. Natasja Barclay's journey serves as an enduring testament to the power of the human spirit and the triumph of the human will.