A hairdresser aged 61 has been dubbed ‘Britain’s Toughest Great-Gran’ – after she ranked among the best Ironman athletes in the WORLD.
Salon owner Sarah Jouault only took up running 14 years ago to help cope with the death of her husband.
Within months she was completing sub-four hour marathons and took up triathlons and Ironmans for a new challenge – after only learning to cycle and swim in her 50s.
She won bronze in her first-ever race in 2001 – despite doing breast stroke – and went on to win 13 first place medals in her age category in just three years.
Despite competing against professional athletes, she has beaten them to compete in FOUR half Ironman World Championships – ranking 6th in the globe in her best race.
The grandmother-of-six has just been named All World Athlete – the top five per cent of Ironman competitors in her age group in the world – a feat usually reached by pros.
She has vowed to keep doing sponsored events until she reaches her #120,000 fundraising goal for children’s charities.
Super-fit Sarah, from Selsey, West Sussex, said: “I’m just really good at running and I never saw the point in doing it for no reason so started raising money too.
“When I line up to start and tell people that I’m doing it for charity, they can’t believe it.
“It is more often retired professionals and they can’t understand why I’m there.
“But I don’t do it to win – I just do it for fun.
“When I look at all my medals I can’t believe I had done it – it makes me cry.
“To think that I couldn’t swim and was scared of putting my head in the water just a few years ago, I can’t believe it.”
Youthful-looking Sarah took up running in 1998, after she was struggling to come to terms with the sudden death of her husband Dimitri, aged 54, in 1994.
A friend suggested she should take up running, and she instantly discovered she had a talent, and was able to run long distances in impressive times.
She ran her first marathon in Dublin the same year in a staggering 3 hrs 57mins – despite never having run more than 10kms.
The mum-of-four, who has one great-grandchild, said: “I was finding everything very hard to cope with and my friend said ‘why don’t you run?’ and at first I was like ‘really?’
“But I found I could run really fast and it gave me something to focus on.”
She did her first triathlon aged 48 and graduated to Olympic length triathlons, netting 13 UK first places in her age category in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
She came first in the qualifying race to compete in San Francisco’s Escape from Alcatraz race, representing the UK when she came 4th in 2005.
But her real strength is 70.3 Ironman Championships – or ‘half Ironmans’ consisting of consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run.
She has qualified for four, coming 6th in Auckland earlier this year, with a remarkable time of 6hrs and 10mins.
But she has also taken on full Ironman races too, coming first in the UK qualifiers in Bolton in 2010.
Remarkably she was one of just 61 Brits in a field of 3,000 athletes at the world championships in Kona, Hawaii later that year, coming 28th in the globe with a time of 14hrs and 26mins.
She fits 20 hours a week training around running her own beauty salon and raising an impressive #110,000 for charity through sponsorship and by making jams and chutneys.
The determined runner said: “I just love it and I find it helps me when I’m upset or stressed.
“I’m not very competitive and just do it for myself so I’m just gobsmacked when I win or get a good place.”