Soraya Merrylees


As a Coach

After reading computing at university, Soraya tried a long list of jobs: project management, sales, marketing, business analysis, business strategy… but she never really found her passion until she got the opportunity to help a friend through her first 10k race. When she realised that this was what she wanted to do, she took a dramatic plunge: passed her Level 3 Personal Training qualification, quit her job, and signed up for her Level 2 Triathlon Coaching qualification.

Her coaching style is flexible; having had multiple corporate jobs herself (and also always trying to take on too much at a time), she understands the demands of a busy lifestyle and tries to work with the client to accommodate their training around it. She believes that training should first and foremost be fun, so nothing should sacrifice that. She’s also very interested in Strength and Conditioning and believes that this is a key part of triathlon training that often gets neglected, so get ready to hit the gym too!

As an athlete

Soraya has always been active. As a child, she regularly partook in many activities (swimming, gymnastics, ballet, volleyball, tennis, skiing…). Ballet was her main activity until after university, and she actually didn’t start cycling until she started triathlon.

Despite starting triathlon quite late, Soraya has represented GB Age Group for the middle distance ETU championships in 2018 and partaken in the 70.3 World Championships in Nice in 2019. She has completed one IRONMAN, nine 70.3 distance races and countless Olympic distance triathlons. Her goal for next year is to improve both her IRONMAN and Half IRONMAN times considerably, with a big focus on improving her running.

Q&A With Soraya

When did you get into triathlon? July 2015

How did you first get involved in triathlon? In early 2015, I got challenged by my boss to partake in a sprint triathlon (I had made a naive and uninformed statement that triathlon was easy). On race day, I was completely unprepared: I was the only one without a wetsuit, I had forgotten my running shoes at home (yes, I had to run to Sports Direct to get a cheap pair last minute!), and I tried leaving transition through bike in... a typical underprepared beginner! Despite the messy start, I was hooked. Less than a month later, I bought a bike, signed up for the 70.3 Aix en Provence (under 10 months away) and I have never looked back.

What is your favourite discipline? That's a really hard question. I love them all but maybe I love cycling just a little more because you get to see so much of the World.

Why did you choose to take up coaching? I was in a meeting one day and my boss was telling me how great it would be to implement some feature in a system we had. I thought: "I just don't care". I realised I cared more about my friend's race the following weekend (I helped her prepare it) than any of the work I had done in the past 5 years. This made me realise that I wanted to care about my job, and what I care about is triathlon and feeling that sense of achievement when you have helped someone reach their goals.

What is your greatest athletic achievement? Completing 70.3 Aix en Provence 10 months after my first triathlon.

What is your greatest coaching achievement? The first person I coached was a friend. She never went to the gym or partook in any sports, until one day she said: Soraya, you've inspired me to start running. Can you help me? So we started with very short and slow jogs and worked our way up to her first 10km race. When she crossed the finish line with a huge smile on her face, I felt so proud to have been part of her success. Of course, all the merit was hers, but I had a part to play in guiding her and keeping her motivated - I'll take that!

What one piece of advice would you give someone new to triathlon? Have fun and listen to your coach :)

Favourite quote: "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone"

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