• Anja Beranek und der Marco Polo Travel

    Triathlete Anja Beranek and the strength of the family.

    Anja Beranek’s career has been something of a roller coaster ride. Yet no setback could dampen her spirits. In 2016, she finished the IRONMAN Hawaii World Championship as the best German triathlete.

    Text: Marcel Schlegel | Photos: Tobias Kuberski

Her family helps Anja Beranek to focus.

She felt totally drained. Her efforts were thwarted and she was struck by a relay biker. Anja Beranek hit rock bottom before she finally managed to rank among the world’s top triathlon athletes. In this process, the PowerLady learnt what really counts: “Triathlon is my passion, but there are more important things in life“, says the Franconian. For her this means first and foremost one thing: her family. It is her family who supports her in everyday life, who cheers her on from the trackside and with whom the best German athlete at the 2016 IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii also shares her successes. “For many athletes, triathlon is an individual sport, but not for me“, says Beranek. “Without my family who has supported me on my way to becoming a pro athlete from the very beginning, I would not be able to rise to all these challenges“, emphasizes the 32-year-old. “They help me to focus on what I do best. I find my balance with them.“ In other words, Anja Beranek practices triathlon mostly for herself, “but fortunately not alone“.

Anja Beranek und der Marco Polo Travel

IRONMAN demands a great deal of her family.

Triathlon equals hardship – for the athletes themselves, but also for their immediate family. Beranek’s family had to do without her at many celebrations. “I place a huge burden on my environment. With a good race result, I can return a little bit to them“, says the German long-distance champion of the year 2015. For Beranek there is nothing like sharing the joy of a good race with her relatives once she has crossed the finishing line.

As the amiable sportswoman relates, sometimes the whole family meets at Beranek’s Marco Polo before or after a competition – they review the race together, they celebrate – but also suffer – together. “If my family and my partner were not present at the side of the track, triathlon would be half as much fun for me“, the native of Bamberg explains. “I need to know that my family supports me, this is where I draw my strength and motivation from.“

It began in the Franconian city of Roth.

Beranek’s family has certainly played no small part in their daughter’s passion. At kindergarten age, when she was only four years old, her parents already registered her for a family triathlon. Running on wobbly legs, cycling with support wheels, swimming on Daddy’s shoulders – this is what Beranek’s first triathlon looked like. The passion for the three disciplines was still in its infancy, but her love for this strenuous sport has remained strong to this day. Anyhow, the endurance specialist grew up in a family of sports enthusiasts in the Franconian city of Fürth – and therefore in the immediate vicinity of the triathlon stronghold of Roth. “Even as a young girl, I stood at the side of the track watching the athletes with sparkling eyes“, recounts Anja Beranek. “I was fascinated by the emotions which overwhelmed the athletes once they reached the finishing line. From then on, I wanted to be a triathlete.“

Kona: Dream turned into nightmare.

In 2007, Anja Beranek fulfilled her dream of participating in her first long-distance triathlon ever. She knew one thing then: my next goal was within reach, too. For all this time, she had felt the intense yearning to be among the best at the IRONMAN championship in Hawaii, the toughest race of all. “It was a risk“, says Beranek. “But Kona obsessed and motivated me.“ In 2012, she finally took her chances, quit her job and pinned all her hopes on triathlon.

Initially, her successes proved Beranek right, for example, when she came off as the winner of the Swiss IRONMAN competition in 2013. But the 2016 triathlon in Kona was to turn from a dream into a nightmare when Beranek fell victim to the heat and high humidity in Hawaii and had to quit the race due to exhaustion. To this day, Anja Beranek talks about the “defeat of Kona“.

Marco Polo as a success factor.

Once again, she fought her way back to the triathlon circuit. She had just regained her stride when the next setback followed in 2014. At her home race in Roth, a relay biker crashed into her, she fell, pulled herself up and got back on her bike despite some abrasions and a broken bike frame, but had to give up in the end. She thought of retiring. “I decided to end my career“, she remembers. Yet again, she could rely on her family environment and her strong partners. Among these, Anja Beranek also includes Mercedes-Benz and the Marco Polo. In her camper van, Beranek can comfortably change her equipment in between training sessions – and most importantly, recharge her batteries. Sometimes she hits the road early in the morning to get out into nature, parks her Marco Polo on the side of a dirt road and enjoys a relaxed cup of tea before starting her workout. Particularly after the first hard mid-morning session, the Marco Polo often serves her as a place of rest and retreat. “Before the second part of the training begins, I sometimes even use it for a brief power nap“, admits Beranek with a smile on her face. “I appreciate the flexibility and mobility the Marco Polo offers me.“

Impressive comeback in Hawaii.

After the disappointing outcome of the 2014 Challenge Roth, Anja Beranek found stability in her family. “In the sport of triathlon, you frequently fall far. But when I do, I can be certain to have a soft landing“, the German said and celebrated new triumphs: In 2015, she won the IRONMAN competition in Wales and finished third at the IRONMAN 70.3 WM, thus being the best German participant. But there was still one score for her to settle: the one with Hawaii. “I travelled to Kona with an uneasy feeling. But sometimes you have to see the positive in apparent disappointments.“ At the endurance classic in 2016, Beranek crossed the finishing line earning a sensational fourth place – and amid tears of joy ran into the arms of her family. This was her greatest success so far – and for Beranek both a compensation for afflictions of the past and evidence of the fact that all the drudgery was well worth the effort. Despite all the troughs and tears.