Mary Beth Ellis, known to the triathlon world as MB, is an ITU Long Distance World Champion, eight-time Ironman Champion, and former American record holder at the Ironman distance.
After being diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2005 and learning she would never run marathons competitively, she went against doctor’s orders and traded in her running career for triathlon. She quickly built a reputation for success at short distance races, including wins as part of the US National team in draft-legal racing and two second-place finishes at Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
But, that was just warm up for what was to come.
“She’s probably one of the toughest triathletes that came through the national program in a long time,” said Scott Schnitzspahn, of the U.S. Olympic Committee. “After a while, it became obvious that the longer stuff, the Ironman, is her speciality.”
In 2011, MB joined Team TBB under the guidance of legendary coach Brett Sutton who immediately recognized her talent for long-distance triathlon. Shortly after, she stormed her way into Ironman with a debut of just over eight hours and forty-three minutes at Ironman Austria, smashing the rookie record, the American record and the course record that day.
Since then, MB has quickly pushed her way to the front of the sport, winning four of her first ten Ironman starts and breaking six course records, including the infamous 20-year-old high water mark at Ironman Canada.
In 2011 and 2012, MBE was named US Non-drafting Triathlete of the Year. In addition, MBE finished in the top 5 at the Ironman World Championships in 2012. After starting on a record breaking undefeated season in 2013 including record breaking wins at Ironman France and the Ironman North American Championships in Mt. Tremblant, MBE was thwarted in her attempt to win the world championships by an ill-timed bike crash that left her needing surgery on her shoulder and collarbone only four weeks from race day.
In 2014, MBE recovered from the crash with a 2nd place at Ironman Asia Pacific Championships, 4th at Ironman 70.3 US Championships, 1st at Kansas 5150, 5th at 70.3 World Championships, and a 9th at the Ironman World Championships all under the guidance of her first mentor and coach in triathlon, Siri Lindley.
In 2015, MBE went back to work with Brett Sutton to finish her triathlon career over the next few years under his tutelage. So far in 2015, MBE has captured the ITU Long Distance World Championship Title as well as a 2nd and 3rd in Challenge Denmark and Bateman’s Bay respectively. With Brett’s expert guidance, MBE will now focus on a trying to capture that elusive World Championship title in Kona.
In so doing, she has set a new standard for US Ironman women, and expanded her reputation for battling through adverse conditions, personal setback and increasingly fast competition to win.
Yet, as tough as she is on the course, she is well known for her light hearted, girl-next-door personality off the course.
“I try not to take myself too seriously. I’m just grateful to have a chance to do what I love for a living because it seemed like it wasn’t even a possibility just a few years ago,” she said. “The sport inspires so many people. I have seen so many amazing stories of people overcoming everything – cancer, obesity, anxiety – with the help of triathlon. My biggest wish it that what I do can, in some small way, add to that legacy and inspire other women like me to try the sport.”
MB has competed in the Olympic trials for three sports, including swimming, running and triathlon. In 2006 she left her full-time job as a marketing director to pursue triathlon professionally. In quiet moments she loves to read, sip coffee, explore the outdoors and spend time with her husband and their dog Keiki, aka “Mrs Fur.”