Four continents, six Ironman, Norseman and countless marathons and ultra-distance events later, french adventurer Perrine Fage broke the women’s record at the world’s toughest endurance triathlons last year: The Mighty Arch-2-Arc, from London’s Marble Arch to France’s Arc De Triomphe. Leaving her life as a lawyer in France, she currently works at beIN Sports in Qatar, pursuing her passion for sports. Each year, she discovers new horizons, surpasses her physical and mental limits, and travels all around the world with her bike. “I am just me, I am free, I just do what I want”, she says.
Who is Perrine Fage? Where are you from and share a bit about your journey and your passions.
I am 38 years old. I was born in the south of France, by the Mediterranean coast and dedicated my childhood and teenage years to Sports and my love for horses. I became an elite athlete in horse riding (in Eventing and dressage) and joined the equestrian national team.
Convinced by the importance of education, and maybe driven by a certain attraction for justice and order, I decided to dedicate myself to law. After 2 years in McGill, Canada and Spain I graduated from University in Montpellier, and, against all odds, I decided to push my studies further and complete a PhD in Competition Law. I passed the Paris bar and started to work for a top-tier international law firm.
Meanwhile I started to enjoy travelling around the world, developing a real thirst for the discovery of new cultures and countries, also looking for different and maybe more adventurous challenges than litigation issues at the office. This is how I discovered mountaineering. I already had a thing for mountains, because of my origins, but I totally fell in love with this new discipline. I have been fortunate enough to climb many summits and participate in very high altitude expeditions, which forced me to overpass my physical and mental limits.
One day, as I attended the Paris Marathon to cheer on a friend of mine, I realized that this fantastic race was a truly charismatic event, with its fair share of drama, heroism and above all camaraderie. I could feel the pain of these people but also their emotions, whether they were winners or finishers. More importantly, this experience deeply transformed the definition I have of the word “competition”.
Before that day, driven by my horse-riding experience, I could’ve never pictured myself participating in a race that I had no chance to win. But if every jogger cannot realistically dream of being an Olympic champion, he can dream of completing a marathon. Since then, I decided that I was going to run the Paris marathon. And this is where it all began…
Three years ago, as i had already entered and completed a few marathons, I had a fantastic professional opportunity, which brought me to Qatar to work for beIN Sports! Putting my legal expertise at the disposal of a leading sports channel… what more could have i asked for? In Doha, I quickly turned to Triathlon. This transition was, to a large extent, motivated by the dynamism of the “swim bike run” over here as well as the country’s state of the art training facilities that are made available for both professional and non-professional athletes. Without a surprise, as I became a more experienced triathlete, I naturally turned to long distance races, which allowed me to travel the world, discover new horizons while following my passion.
In the last months, I completed, on four continents, six full Ironman distance events including the Norseman (widely considered the planet’s toughest triathlon in Norway, 4 half Ironman, the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, and 140.6 World championship in Kona Hawaii, UCI Grand Fondos (including the world championships in the south of France), and countless other triathlons, marathons and cycling events in various conditions, across different landscapes.
At the end of 2017 I decide to start Ultra endurance. I was ready to take my level of commitment to another lever as I had set myself the goal of attempting the Enduroman Arch to Arc triathlon in June 2018. This challenge involves a 140 km run from Marble Arch in London, England to Dover on the English coast, followed by a 40k swim across the Channel from Dover to Calais, France, and finishing with a 140 km bike ride from Calais to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Tell us about your experience as an Enduroman World Record Holder?
Training and work was ok. I used to work 40 hours and train for 30-40 hours. But nothing else. I just did work and training during one year. Every single minute of my 7 months were planned and organized months in advance. I started my Enduroman journey in December 2017, and I had never swim more than 1h 30m. I have spent around 16h weekly in the water. Every single week I had a 6h+ open water and then various sessions in pool. I have been to France and UK for cold water training. I wouldn’t say it is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life but the level of commitment to reach the start line is the highest I ever had to provide. It was a fantastic experience, really atypical and uncommon.
How do you feel about your current lifestyle - Do you feel like a giant living in disguise?
Today I have found the perfect balance between work, sport, adventure and living my passion. Today I travel the world with my bicycle. I like meeting people and go to new countries. But I also love racing and performance. So I still participate in ultra endurance running or cycling events. Some people think its craziness. I don’t think so and I feel perfectly stable and balanced with an extreme lifestyle.
What’s the most challenging race or adventure that you have done?
In terms of adventure, I think the most challenging things have been in the mountains or in the water, because there are elements in nature that you cannot control. You can die if sea of mountain have decided it. But of course I have been in very difficult situations. In ultra endurance cycling, for example, when your body is so exhausted and the sleep deprivation is affecting your mindset. BikingMan Taiwan was tough race (1200km 18000d+ in the jungle). But swimming the channel for 20 hours in the water was maybe more challenging, it’s difficult to say. In the morning, the currents were very strong. When I almost reached the coast, it took me 4 hours to land on the coast. My arms were so painful I had tendonitis. I was mentally not in a good state but my coach found the right words to encourage which suddenly shifted my focus and I was totally goal oriented, and swam to the coast. Also because when it’s done you forget about the bad memories and just remember the glorious moment at the finish line!
Have you faced any obstacles over the years and how have you overcome them?
It’s difficult for me, because I constantly feel judged by people. You know when you start triathlons, people are telling you what to do and what not to do. Then you spend all your time, money and focus on that. And yes, sometimes I felt a bit ridiculous because of course I am not a professional athlete. I think it’s difficult depending on age groupers sometimes. So yes the most difficult thing for me was to find my place and know who I want to be as a sports person. You don’t have to be professional athlete, you don’t have to be ironman age grouper, you can just be you. Today I feel myself in endurance races. And I also feel myself travelling with my bike everywhere, even if I am not a real adventurer, I am not a professional athlete, I am not a professional mountaineer. I am just me, I am free, I just do what I want and I have many project in my mind. So yes the main obstacle was myself and accept who I am.
Lastly, mind vs. Body - Do you allow either to work independently or do they work in unison? Are both equally as important to you or does one supersede the other?
Yes I think they work together, even if it’s easier to trick the mind than the body. I don’t believe that the mind supersedes body. I believe in hard work and commitment. But I would say they work unison and are both extremely important.
Where to find Perrine Fage:
First female to finish BikingMan - beIN Sports