Jefferson Resident Dreams of Triathlon Glory
Jemila Najjar-Keith placed first in Randolph Triathlon.
The Ironman Triathlon isn’t just for men, even though its name might indicate otherwise. And Jefferson’s Jemila Najjar-Keith has proven that by placing 14th out of 48 women in her age group in the Lake Placid Ironman on July 22.
“I was very proud of my finish, especially since I got sick during the race,” she said.
Najjar-Keith said she got out of the water faster “even than some of the pros,” after the swim, and felt good during the biking. But during the run, she started to feel ill.
“I think I had eaten too much that morning, and it started to catch up with me,” she said. “That’s when the mental toughness came in. I told myself I was going to finish, and that was it, I had a strong finish.”
Najjar-Keith had a coach who helped her prepare for the Lake Placid race.
“I trained seven days a week, running, swimming and biking,” she said. “About two weeks before the race, we started to taper off, but I still did something every day.”
Prior to the Ironman, Najjar-Keith came in first of all women in her age bracket in the Randolph Triathlon.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “When I came out of the water and got onto the bike, I didn’t see another female the whole time.”
Now Najjar-Keith, a special education teacher in Parsippany, is taking a break from participating and trying to gain sponsorship while training with Team NRGY in Montclair.
“I’m trying to qualify for Kona in Hawaii,” Najjar-Keith said. “I have to either win Lake Placid or finish high enough to get an invitation to Kona.”
Sponsorship will help Najjar-Keith to gain some of the funds she needs for the trip to Hawaii.
Not competing won’t keep Najjar-Keith from training, however. As a Lake Shawnee resident, she swims the lake in the summer, and trains at the Greater Morristown YMCA in the winter. She also does yoga and cross-training, along with cardio exercise, during the off-season.
“Being a triathlete has kept me balanced as a teacher,” Najjar-Keith said. “I’ve learned to be able to balance doing several different things at the same time, and learned to balance my two worlds as a teacher and athlete.”
Najjar-Keith has nothing but a positive outlook on the future.
“Female triathletes don’t peak until they are in their 30s,” she said. “I’m only 25.”