Mary Beth Ellis, known to the triathlon world as MB, is an eight-time Ironman Champion and the American record holder at the Ironman distance. She is one tough athlete deciding to race Ironman Kona in 2013 despite recently breaking her collar bone 28 days before the race.
After being diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2005 and learning she would never run marathons competitively, she went against doctor’s orders and traded in her running career for triathlon. She quickly built a reputation for success at short distance races, including wins as part of the US National team in draft-legal racing and two second-place finishes at Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
But, that was just warm up for what was to come.
"She's probably one of the toughest triathletes that came through the national program in a long time," said Scott Schnitzspahn, of the U.S. Olympic Committee. "After a while, it became obvious that the longer stuff, the Ironman, is her speciality."
In 2011, MB joined Team TBB under the guidance of legendary coach Brett Sutton who immediately recognized her talent for long-distance triathlon. Shortly after, she stormed her way into Ironman with a debut of just over eight hours and forty-three minutes at Ironman Austria, smashing the rookie record, the American record and the course record that day.
Since then, MB has quickly pushed her way to the front of the sport, winning eight of her first ten Ironman starts and breaking six course records, including the infamous 20-year-old high water mark at Ironman Canada. In so doing, she has set a new standard for US Ironman women, and expanded her reputation for battling through adverse conditions, personal setback and increasingly fast competition to win.
Yet, as tough as she is on the course, she is well known for her light hearted, girl-next-door personality off the course. "I try not to take myself too seriously. I'm just grateful to have a chance to do what I love for a living because it seemed like it wasn’t even a possibility just a few years ago," she said. "The sport inspires so many people. I have seen so many amazing stories of people overcoming everything – cancer, obesity, anxiety – with the help of triathlon. My biggest wish it that what I do can, in some small way, add to that legacy and inspire other women like me to try the sport."
MB has competed in the Olympic trials for three sports, including swimming, running and triathlon. In 2006 she left her full-time job as a marketing director to pursue triathlon professionally. After a crash derailed her Kona World Championship prep in 2013, MBE valiantly fought to get to the starting line but was unable to finish. In 2014, she took stock and moved back home to Boulder to train with her first coach in the sport Siri Lindley and spend more time her husband. When not training or racing, MB loves to read, sip coffee, and explore the outdoors hiking with her husband and their dog "Keiki."
Follow MB on Twitter @MaryBethEllis