The amazing Lynley Brown

Nothing seems to be able to slow former Ironman champion Lynley Brown down. Just months after having the lower half of her leg amputated she completed the swim portion of the Port of Tauranga Half.

| January 9, 2017 | PERSONALITY

The next time you want to whine about being too tired, or too stressed, or too anything to head on out for your next workout, I'd like you to think about Lynley Brown.

This is a woman who's incredibly positive attitude comes through in droves even during a Skype conversation, despite the fact that her life has been filled with setbacks that might have stopped mortal beings in their tracks.

Childhood illness.

Hip issues that forced her to have both her hips replaced by the time she was 36.

Then, just to really test her mettle, over the last few years Brown found herself dealing with back and leg issues that would eventually lead to the amputation of her left leg below the knee. 

Lynley Brown is no mortal being, in part proved last weekend when she completed the swim portion of the Port of Tauranga Half. As far as she's concerned there's nothing special about her, or what she did last weekend. As far as pretty much the rest of the world is concerned, she's a hero. She personifies everything there is about the legendary Kiwi "can do" attitude that makes New Zealand such a powerhouse in the world of sports despite a population of 4.5 million.

Childhood challenges

Because she was diagnosed with Perthese disease as a child, Brown couldn't run or jump from 5 to 13, so she turned to swimming. Once she was given the go ahead to try other sports, she first tried rowing, then turned to triathlon.

She did her first Ironman in 2001, won her age group in Kona that year and then turned pro. I was on hand to cover her win at Ironman Coeur d'Alene in Idaho in 2004 and her runner-up finish earlier that year at Ironman New Zealand.

The childhood issues, though, would eventually mean that she'd need to get both her hips replaced, which she had done in 2007 and 2008. Her competitive days over, she turned to coaching, quickly becoming one of the country's premier coaches.

10-year anniversary

In 2014 she decided she would participate at Ironman New Zealand again, this time alongside husband Jason. She wasn't able to finish the race that day, though, because of issues with her back. Turns out she had an infection and an abscess in her spine. Last May she went under the knife to deal with those back issues. During that surgery a vein was "nipped," which eventually led to clotting issues and embolisms.

She would spend the next 66 days in hospital. Turns out that she was allergic to heparin, the blood thinner they had put her on. Eventually her left foot "blew up" and required surgery. It would eventually develop gangrene. By the time all was said and done, the best option doctors could provide was to amputate her leg below the knee. She got out of hospital just in time to watch the Olympics at home, then returned to her work as a supply teacher. Her first day back she went around the school and spoke to each class.

Her main message? Perseverance, fortitude. And all this hasn't changed who she is.

"This experience has reaffirmed who I am as a person and as a teacher," she says.


As you have likely guessed, Brown isn't sitting around at home feeling sorry for herself.

"This is like the rebirth of Lynley Brown," she says. "This is my new life. I just think that people with disabilities or impairments, most them will just get on with it."

Her friends and family aren't letting her sit around, either. She says she wouldn't have been able to get through the trials and tribulations she faced last year without Jason's support. When multiple Ironman champion Jo Lawn (who won that 2004 race) and her husband Armando Galarraga heard that Brown was back in the pool, they immediately reached out and asked her to be part of a relay team with them at the Port of Tauranga Half.

"It helped me focus on not just getting back to the daily grind, but back to fitness," she says.

While she doesn't have any more races in mind for this year, Brown has been pedaling on a mountain bike and says she wants to do Ironman New Zealand in 2019 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the last time she did that race as a pro.

My money is on her being on that start line.

"Life is all about surrounding yourself with good people and triathlon is all about that," Brown says.

Triathlon is full of good people. Amazing ones, actually.

Lynley Brown leads the way.