Beginning in 1983 with the aim of encouraging women and girls to get out and have a go, focusing on fun, fitness and health, the Kāpiti Women's Triathlon has inspired many people into exercise.

For Jan-Maree Brown, now 62, the event did just that.

Wanting to change her lifestyle but having never done much exercise, Jan-Maree was also a heavy smoker and struggled to breathe when exercising.

At the age of 36, Brown decided to give up smoking and at 37 she signed up for her first Kāpiti Women's Triathlon.

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"I had never exercised in my life.

"I had smoked for 21 years and when I gave up I was like 'what am I going to do to get fit?'

"So I signed up for the Kāpiti Women's Triathlon and it was the first one I did."

Jan-Maree Brown competing at the Taupō Ironman in March.
Jan-Maree Brown competing at the Taupō Ironman in March.

The first step was learning to swim, something she found especially challenging because of the breathing.

Starting out on her back doing backstroke and alternating between running and walking to each lamppost, signing up proved a complete lifestyle transformation for Brown.

"I had never owned a bike so I went to The Warehouse and brought a cheap, heavy old thing and started out on that.

"While I knew how to swim I couldn't swim properly because I couldn't breathe from all the smoking.

"So I started out with backstroke in the pool until I could freestyle."

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Brown slowly built up her training despite not knowing how much she needed to do in preparation for the triathlon.

"I built it up until I did the Kāpiti Women's Triathlon, which was the most nervous day of my life."

And the rest is history.

Brown then started looking into other events, despite being ill-equipped with gear.

In one such cycle race she recalls wearing her father's oilskin jacket on her heavy bike in pouring rain while everyone else was in the lycra and on "fancy" bikes.

Now, years later, she has completed around 50 half marathons, done the Coast to Coast, 17 half ironmans, 11 full ironmans and represented New Zealand in triathlon at age group level.

"I loved doing the Kāpiti Women's Triathlon as it's all about having a go and no one judges you.

"It gave me so much confidence and now I love being fit.

"Since the first one I now love the training itself.

"I love being fit, I love pushing myself.

"Just doing that first Kāpiti Women's Triathlon gave me so much confidence.

"It's really great because it is just for women and no one judges you, there are no men around which is really great when it's your first one.

"It's just given me confidence and I just love the feeling of being fit and having a goal.

"You meet a lot of really neat people along the way. It's a really good way of living."

The Kāpiti Women's Triathlon is being held on February 23, with group training sessions available.

Check out www.kwt.org.nz/ for more information.