7 decades strong and taking on the Discovery Duathlon


Molly Fabé, 70, had never exercised before when she inadvertently entered a competition to participate in the Discovery Triathlon World Cup. She couldn’t even swim at the time. Here’s her story of overcoming the odds - and repeating it for love.

“It was actually quite amazing,” says Molly, recounting how she accidently signed up for an epic multisport race.

“Back in December 2015, in Women’s Health magazine, there was a competition where you could win a personal trainer, and yours truly didn’t read the Ts and Cs. When the organisers phoned to say I’d won, they set up a meeting, and that’s when I found out it was for a triathlon – that I’d won a place in a triathlon!”  

Discovery sponsored appointments with fitness trainers for Molly, including a swimming instructor. “I was 68 at the time, but they said, ‘we would like to work with you because it would be a challenge for us.’ They set up appointments, some trainers, and sent a bicycle for me to use for the Duathlon.  My first training session was for swimming. I also had sessions with a biokineticist.

‘When I started training, I could not run, cycle or swim’

“When I started training, I could not run, cycle or swim. I know it sounds weird, but that is how it was. Discovery paid for all my lessons, and I just had to go along. Halfway through, I decided that I did not want to participate in the swimming, so I opted out of that. They then transferred my entry to a Duathlon,” she says.

“I started cycling in my area and had two falls. I kept saying I don’t think I should do this! But my husband, Rodney, who was a great sportsman, would encourage me.” And so Molly, who works as the Executive Director of the Cape Kidney Association, did not give up.

Run Cycle Run for Rodney

In the months prior, Rodney – her husband of 45 years – had developed Parkinson’s disease and also suffered from severe dehydration. By race day, he had been admitted to hospital, and was in an intensive care unit. Molly and her friends wore T-shirts printed with the words ‘Run Cycle Run for Rodney’.

With just 11 weeks of training, she completed the Discovery Duathlon Cape Town 2016 in one hour and 25 minutes.

Her triumph over the odds was sweet. However, Rodney remained in ICU for seven and a half months, sending Molly into a severe depression. He passed away in October 2016 at the age of 72. “The whole of 2017 I did nothing,” Molly recalls. “I put on weight and became very unfit. But in 2018 I said, I have to turn this around – that’s what Rodney would have wanted.”

Rising to the challenge

“I was very disappointed that I went through such a low period of not doing any exercise,” she says. In 2018, Molly, a Bronze Vitality member, decided to start training again. She now walks regularly, cycles, works out at the gym, and has even booked a few more sessions with a personal trainer.  

“I decided I was going to tackle the 2019 Discovery Duathlon Cape Town. For somebody who’s never done sport to then embark upon a duathlon is quite something. The only sport I ever did was ‘modelling’ – that’s not even a sport!” she quips.

Molly’s Super Sprint duathlon, which took place this past weekend, consisted of a 2.5 km run, a 10 km cycle and then another 2.5 km run. “It was hectic!” she says, laughingly. “The wind was my biggest challenge, especially while cycling. I thought I was not going to make it.”

Fuelled by love and determination

“But I had Meredith – my daughter and greatest supporter, who kept edging me along. So although I was further back than I wanted to be, I did it – I finished! That’s the main thing. This time, I did the race in memory of my late husband, as Rodney’s birthday would be this week – in fact, on Valentine’s Day.”

Fuelled by determination and love – and thanks to pledges from friends and colleagues – by finishing, Molly raised around R7 500 for the Cape Kidney Association, a grassroots Non-Profit Organisation that helps needy patients suffering with chronic kidney disease.  And while Molly recovers from her race and reflects on her years shared with Rodney, she can rest knowing her contribution is inspiring and helping others to lead healthier lives too.

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