#SouthJersey mother and wife balances triathlons with dentistry (via @cp_CWhittaker @cpsj)

26 Aug

 Marlene Sardina-Kelly is passionate about life and believes you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

Her story is a prime example. She came to this country as a Cuban refugee, became a dentist, a wife, a mother and a triathlete. Four years ago, just ahead of her 50th birthday, Sardina-Kelly started competing in Ironman competitions.

The 53-year-old Mount Laurel resident helps run a busy dental practice, teaches dental classes at Temple University and keeps her household going strong, while keeping her body in tip-top shape so she can do something she loves.

“When she gets involved, she puts everything into it,” said her husband, Michael Kelly. “She becomes very passionate with everything and this (triathlons) became one more of those things. I just swore up and down, ‘Hon I’m never, ever going to do this’ and within the next year, she sucked me in.”

On a recent Thursday morning, Sardina-Kelly took a 70-mile bike ride through South Jersey as part of her training. On another morning, she ran seven miles before going into work and then swam for an hour after work.

She’s training to compete in Ironman Louisville — a full Ironman event, which is a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run — with her husband on Oct. 11. First, they’ll compete in the Diamondman Challenge Half-Iron Triathlon in Delaware in three weeks as a warm-up.

“I started running in my late 30s after I had the kids,” Sardina-Kelly said. “I’m kind of one of these people that tackles things full head on.

“I always encourage people to do exactly what you want in your heart because I think that a lot of dreams and goals die with people, they don’t pursue it. You need to actually do stuff. You’d be surprised how powerful you can be.”

Sardina-Kelly values life more than ever these days. She ran in the Boston Marathon in April of 2013 and crossed the finish line about 19 minutes before the terrorist attacks.

She had a solid race “physically,” but said “it was a tough, emotional day.”

That day solidified her feelings about embracing life and going after your goals every day, but she carried that notion long before her parents emigrated from Cuba in the 1960s.

She grew up in Miami, attended the University of Miami as an undergrad and went to the University of Pennsylvania dental school. Sardina-Kelly had intended to return to Florida but met her future husband at Penn and put down roots in Mount Laurel soon after.

They’ve been married nearly 24 years and have three children — son Ryan, 23, daughter Courtney, 21, (in her last semester at Johns Hopkins and planning on dental school) and daughter Natalie, 17, a senior at Bishop Eustace.

After raising her children, she started running and within eight months ran her first marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon, back in 2000. She’s done about 14 marathons to this point. She began swimming after suffering a stress fracture from running and she’d always biked with her husband, an avid cyclist.

Ten years ago Sardina-Kelly did her first triathlon, a sprint, short distance triathlon and continued meeting people similar to herself. She said triathlons tend to attract people in their 40s and 50s.

“It’s kind of like an accomplishment of something maybe you thought was so far out there that you could never do it,” she said.

“Before I turned 50, on my 49th birthday, I decided I wanted to do a Half-Ironman, which is a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a half-marathon. That seemed like such a huge accomplishment, such a huge goal. I hired a coach, I was kind of just doing all the stuff he would throw at me, within a period of four months I trained and did my first Half-Ironman and I was 49.”

She’s since done eight Half-Ironmans and two full Ironman races: Florida in 2012 — where she finished ninth in the female 50-54 age group in 11 hours, 57 minutes and 37 seconds — and Arizona in 2013 where she finished 10th in her age group in 11 hours, 58 minutes and 39 seconds.

“Last year I did a bunch of halfs and this year I’m doing this Ironman Louisville,” she said.  “Along the way, I feel I have pulled people into doing these type of events. After I did my first one, a friend of mine, Mechelle Gunther, she was training for fun, she ended up doing her first and she and I did Arizona together. She lives in Maryland and I live here but we were able to do a lot of trainings together.”

Her husband said they have always done a lot of things together, including biking. Then she started running about 15 years ago and got him into it. Then came the triathlons he swore he’d never do.

“When she started teaching at Temple, her passion and her love for teaching was so apparent,” Kelly said. “She would come home in the evening and would be beaming with excitement of her kids at school. It’s just the way she has always been, loving the things she does. She keeps that same pace and keeps on going.”

Sardina-Kelly balances a busy lifestyle.

There’s the work at her practice, Conway & Sardina Cosmetic and Family Dentistry, in Cherry Hill and her clinical instructor role at Temple’s dentistry school, where she teaches once a week. An active member of her church, St. Isaac Jogues in Marlton, she’s a member of the Eucharistic minister team, taking communion to the elderly or sick, and is co-chair of the pastoral council.

“My kids and my family are very, very supportive,” Sardina-Kelly said.

She is also involved with the Moorestown Distance Running Project and gets great support from her fellow members.

“It’s such a nice group of people from this area that the majority are anywhere from 35 to 55 and they have this common interest of running,” she said. “You can send out emails, ‘Hey is anybody running tomorrow, I need to do a 10-miler.’ It’s nice to have support, it can get really lonely.

“People say to me, ‘Oh my God, how do you do it? I could never,’ ” Sardina-Kelly said. “I say you can, anybody can do this stuff, you just have to do the homework. That’s the key to it all. I find when I’m busy with these things I enjoy, whether you want to call it a hobby or whatever, I’m also at my best with the rest of my life, with the office, with Temple, all that stuff. I find it all kind of falls into place.”

Source: http://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/2015/08/25/south-jersey-mother-wife-balances-triathlons-dentist/32329689/

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