Sports

Toronto Ironman triathlete Connor Emeny is about to run Antarctica

In the lead-up to his record-breaking race in January, Emeny’s upped his training to three hours a day (and added plenty of cold plunges)
Rebecca Gao
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Connor Emeny was always up for a challenge. Soccer, Ping-Pong, chess club—no game went unplayed. He didn’t catch the long-distance running bug until 2013, during his Grade 12 year at St. Michael’s College in Toronto. When a friend suggested they sign up for an upcoming Toronto Waterfront Marathon, he thought: Why not? “I did no research,” Emeny recalls. He made it to the finish line, then collapsed. Medics wheeled him to his dad’s car. “I wanted to do it again,” he says. “But better.”

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In 2016, while in his second year as a business major at Queen’s University, Emeny joined the varsity triathlon team. A teammate had placed 14th in the world in their age group at the Ironman World Championship, and Emeny wanted to be a contender too. The Ironman triathlon, a 3.9-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre bike ride and marathon, is one of the most gruelling single-day sporting events. Yet Emeny was undaunted: every day, he mainlined green smoothies, litres of water and swimming technique videos on YouTube. The goal? To wrap the Ironman in 12 hours—38 minutes faster than the men’s average.

Emeny finished his degree, put in for a job transfer—he was then an account rep for Uber Eats—and headed to New Zealand for his first Ironman attempt. He’d wake up at 5 a.m. to work, then run drills he memorized at a local run club (but did solo to save money). Once Ironman number one was in the bag, he set his next goal: run one on every continent. And be the youngest to do it.

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The last three years have been a whirlwind. After a stopover in Toronto, Emeny relocated to Vancouver in 2021 to train outdoors. (His friends carved a 30-foot lane into a frozen Whistler lake so he could do laps). He posted his training on Instagram and scored sponsorships with gear firms, like Arc’teryx, to subsidize his travels. That fall, Emeny ran his second Ironman in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Then came Spain, South Africa, the Philippines and Brazil, his only “minor” setbacks being a pulled groin, “a few” ankle sprains and two broken bikes. This January, he’ll conquer Antarctica, his final (and coldest) destination.

Lately, Emeny’s been training three hours a day, researching all-weather wetsuits and adding cold plunges to his regimen. He’s also hired two videographers for a possible documentary about his world tour. It’s hard to believe Emeny’s journey started on a whim—perhaps for everyone but him. “Our greatest fear and gift is the unknown,” he says. “I’m excited to do something no one else has.”

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PROSPECT POP QUIZ
Stand-out race: The Ironman in Subic Bay, Philippines (hardest run, best people)
Favourite sport (to watch): Maple Leafs hockey. “I’m someone who yells at the TV. With the Leafs’ record lately, I have good reason.”
Pre-race ritual: A morning coffee followed by a solo walk
Non-athletic hobby: Cooking. Western omelettes are his specialty.
Go-to flick: Good Will Hunting, though Emeny was recently inspired by Arnold, Netflix’s Schwarzenegger-centric docuseries. “He was a bodybuilder, then an actor, then a politician. A real champion can do something great more than once.”