Ironwomen tackle Memphis for St. Jude

Pictured, from left to right, are Lea Thebeau and Kara Harres after finishing the Memphis Iron Man benefiting St. Jude in early October. 

October started out with a bang for two local sisters.

They competed in their first half Ironman triathlon in roughly four years. 

Lea Thebeau, 48, and Kara Harres, 45, both of Columbia, competed in the inaugural St. Jude Ironman 70.3 in Memphis on Oct. 2. 

Together, they tackled the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-run. 

As if coming back from injuries weren’t enough, the weather posed even more of a challenge, making it the hardest of four triathlons the sisters had ever done. 

“It was the hardest one we did just because it was raining so hard,” Harres said. 

This caused the sisters to re-evaluate their overarching goal for the race. 

“When we got ready to start the swim, I said to (Harres) ‘Let’s just not worry about a personal record time, let’s just worry about completing the race,” Thebeau said.

Both agreed biking was particularly hard, with Harres explaining it was dangerous as the rain made it hard to see.

“The worst part of the race was biking 56 miles in the rain. For the first time I felt like, ‘I’m not sure I’m going to finish this.’ Both of us felt that way,” Thebeau said.

But they did. 

“It was a tough day, mentally and physically in the rain. We completed it nowhere near what we thought we might, but at that point I don’t think we really cared,” Thebeau said. 

Thebeau said she believes having a racing partner makes all the difference. 

“We’ve done a couple of these before and I always feel like it’s just better off to have somebody there with you, thinking through the race and talking about the race and everything,” Thebeau said. 

For added motivation, spectators were allowed to line the running path. The sisters had their very own cheering squad. 

“My boyfriend and my daughters were there … my mom and dad and my sister had her husband there. Being able to see so many people you know when you’re racing really helps you when it’s very mindfully challenging,” Harres said.

Knowing they were doing the race for a good cause also helped keep their spirits up, both said. As Thebeau detailed, the race was originally set for last year but was canceled due to the COVID pandemic. 

With her daughter’s sorority, Tri Delta, having St. Jude as their philanthropy partner, Thebeau had a special connection to the cause. 

She originally planned on tackling the race with her daughter and other Tri Delta sisters, but with the date being rescheduled, this could not happen. 

Harres also had a special connection with St. Jude, stating that working as a physician’s assistant has let her see first hand St. Jude’s impact. 

“As a PA, you respect what St. Jude does for so many families around the country and around the world,” she said. “On the run, there’s pictures of children from St. Jude, so it’s very inspiring and sort of (reminds you) why you’re doing it.” 

The sisters plan to continue triathlons, but not in the fall season. Harres even mentioned doing a full IronMan in the future. 

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Madison Lammert

Madison is a reporter at the Republic-Times. She has over six years of experience in journalistic writing. Madison is a recent graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in mass communications. Before graduating and working at the Republic-Times, Madison worked for SIUE’s student newspaper, The Alestle, for many years. During her time there she filled many roles, including editor-in-chief. When she is not working, she likes to spend time with her dog and try new restaurants across the river.
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