Personal Best: Legrand seeks redemption at Escape 

Fatema Legrand hopes for personal redemption as one of 1,800 triathletes taking the plunge today from the San Francisco Belle into the chilly Bay waters.

The 1.5-mile swim represents the first leg of the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. In last year’s Escape, the 5-foot-4, 110-pound Legrand reached Marina Green Beach in 58 minutes after battling the treacherous currents. She ran barefoot the 12½ minutes to her bike and completed the 18-mile second leg in 1 hour, 13 minutes.

It was as she began the third leg, the 8-mile run, that Legrand was dealt a serious setback. Faced with severe cramps caused by dehydration, Legrand lay on a stretcher ingesting fluids for 45 minutes before finishing the race in 4 hours, 9 minutes.

“My goal was 3 hours and 15 minutes,” Legrand said. “I was very disappointed. I was in great shape last year.”

Despite postponing knee surgery, the 39-year-old mother of two and full-time scientist, specializing in cancer immunotherapy, is ready today to conquer last year’s targeted time. Her rigorous training regimen, including the addition of a personal trainer, begins each weekday morning as the San Carlos resident wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and works for three hours on two of the three triathlon legs.

A native of Afghanistan, Legrand moved to the Bay Area in 1981. She recalls being pushed off the swing by her fourth-grade classmates who ignorantly associated her with the Iranian hostage crisis. Legrand, though, was happy just to be in the playground, as girls in her homeland were forbidden to play freely, wear shorts or ride a bike.

Blessed with open-minded parents, Legrand took advantage of the athletic opportunities at Newark Memorial High School.
Playing on the school’s tennis and badminton teams all four years, her highlight was capturing the Mission Valley Athletic League mixed doubles badminton championship her senior year.

After the birth of her son in 2001, Legrand joined the San Francisco triathlon club, See Jane Run.

“I had gained some weight and wanted to lose it,” she recalls. “I joined this nice, little group that trained novices like myself to do triathlons. That’s how I got bitten by the bug.”

The Escape from Alcatraz holds a special allure for Legrand, who competes in one or two triathlons every year.

“You have this beautiful view that you don’t usually have, and that’s just the ultimate,” Legrand said. “Seeing San Francisco from that point of view, you feel alive, truly alive.”


30th Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

When: Today, 8 a.m. (starts at Alcatraz)

Fitness Festival: Opens at 7 a.m. at Marina Green

Notable: Andy Potts will be vying for his fourth consecutive win

Legrand’s mission: Her goal, after ACL knee surgery, is to move from triathlons to Iron Man races


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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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