Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY LOREEN PINDERA

GIL­BERT AYOUB SCREWED up the courage to ask Ar­lene Turner out on a date at Ar­lene’s 15th birth­day party. The tim­ing and the ap­proach was thought out in ad­vance, the plan dis­cussed with his best friend Bob. To his de­light, Ar­lene ac­cepted.

They both grew up in the Mon­treal neigh­bour­hood of St. Leonard, but they had lit­tle else in com­mon: Gil was quiet, ath­letic and in­tense, Ar­lene, his po­lar op­po­site: vi­va­cious, out­go­ing and – oh – she had no in­ter­est in sports. Nada.

“There were a few other boyfriends,” Ar­lene in­sists, but Gil’s persistence won out, and on Oct. 2, 1976 – two days be­fore Ar­lene’s 20th birth­day – they mar­ried.

Fast for­ward forty years, and the un­likely pair is still to­gether – grand­par­ents now, four times over. Next month, they’re go­ing to Hawaii to cel­e­brate 40 years of mar­riage and their re­spec­tive 60th birth­days. And on Oct. 8, they’ll be at Kailua Pier for the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship The Ay­oubs have 22 Iron­man races be­tween them. “I did Kona when I turned 50,” Gil said. “The goal this year was to do Kona when I turned 60 – and for us to qual­ify to­gether.”

“This was never on my hori­zon,” says Ar­lene, re­call­ing her first Iron­man in Pen­tic­ton in 2005 – two years af­ter she learned how to swim.

“I was stand­ing on the beach, cry­ing,” she says. “Then Sis­ter Madonna [Buder, the ‘Iron Nun’ and world’s oldest Iron­man fin­isher, at 85] prances by and says, ‘Isn’t this a blessed day?’”

That was the boost Ar­lene needed to over­come her fear, but she laughs at the photo of her get­ting out of Okana­gan Lake an hour and 35 min­utes later. “The pic­ture com­ing out of the swim is me, look­ing back­wards, to see if there is any­body be­hind me,” she says. “I was sure I was last!” Back in the early 1970s in St. Leonard, “ex­er­cise just wasn’t part of the recipe,” Ar­lene says. “Girls didn’t even have gym.” In the Turner house­hold, the boys were even fed dif­fer­ently. “My broth­ers played hockey, so they got steak.” Gil, on the other hand, was sports-ob­sessed, ad­ven­tur­ous and ready to try his hand at any­thing. In his 20s, he raced Olympic-class Tor­nado cata­ma­rans and wind­surfed in sum­mer, played squash and worked as a ski and snow­board in­struc­tor in win­ter. He per­suaded Ar­lene to take up mar­tial arts, both of them earn­ing black belts in aikido. Then there was polo. “He got into it through a fam­ily mem­ber who had horses,” Ar­lene says. “I have a mem­ory of me hold­ing our son Christo­pher in my arms – he was prob­a­bly four months old – and a two-year-old at my leg, and my hus­band was tak­ing off to go play polo on a Satur­day morn­ing. There’s me, just stand­ing by the win­dow, cry­ing.” “Those were the years I had to per­sist through.” “Ar­lene wasn’t a horse per­son at all,” Gil con­cedes. Even­tu­ally, polo was re­placed by moun­tain-bike rac­ing. And Ar­lene, in her 40s, dis­cov­ered run­ning. “I started to get away from ev­ery­body,” Ar­lene says. “It was sim­ple. Put on a pair of run­ning shoes, and go.”

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