Meredith Atwood reflects on the last decade as a triathlete and shares her biggest realization: we all have an important role in this sport.

I used to care, worry and compare. I used to think what other people were doing had something to do with me. I used other people’s speed to downgrade my worth. That is the difference a decade makes—that is never part of who I am now.

I have spent a lot of time lately reflecting on the last 10 years of my fitness and triathlon journey. For lifetime athletes, this probably seems silly. (I don’t think it is, really—we should always be reflecting, right?) Regardless, for someone coming into endurance sports late in life—it’s a real thing to be proud of this sometimes long and sometimes horrid journey of running into the endurance person you are capable of becoming.

The main theme I see out of all the last 10 years is that change—true change—is not a quick fix. True change takes a ridiculous amount of time and even more grit, hustle and hard work.

Sure, we all have those friends who seem to catapult fast into their endurance persona—with grace, speed, and rapid-fire weight loss that doesn’t really seem fair. But at the same time, the work that is put in? We never really know how hard someone else is working. The appearance of ease with which someone swim, bikes or runs is never really known, truly, to someone else.

And I think, likely, the path to endurance “success” is never easy.

Many of us everyday or beginner athletes make the mistake of comparison: we compare our bodies, our paces, our bikes. Okay, so humans make the mistake of comparison—in general, and about everything.

I wrote in my next book: “In a sport based on speed, it does seem weird to be slow, right?”

And this is what I decided: Eh, who cares.

I mean that with my whole heart, 10 years into this journey. Let me tell you how much I care about someone’s race time at this point—a decade later. I care not even a blink. I used to care. I used to care, worry, and compare. I used to think what other people were doing had something to do with me.

In that sense, I used other people’s speed to downgrade my worth.

None of it has anything to do with me! Of course, this is different for the professional athletes and those on the cusp of qualifying for world championships (also not me, but I wrote about that here too.)

All of this to say that we can be in the sport of triathlon, we can mentor the next generation of triathletes, we can contribute and help out without being fiercely competitive, wicked fast, or an icon in the sport. We can make great changes by swimming, biking, and running at our gym, in our parks and volunteering at local races.

We matter! No matter what speed we are going, what we look like, what bike we have.

So often we get caught up in where we are—we aren’t looking at how far we have come, what we have contributed—or what we are capable of contributing to the world of endurance sports.

Not worrying about what people think on the race course or about training is a key to longevity in any sport—not to mention the ability to just live life. You can make a life out of fitness and endurance. You can create your own rules and goals about what matters and what doesn’t. The most important thing is to keep moving forward—to literally stay healthy and make swim, bike, run and training a lifetime sport—something you can do well into your 100s. Okay, 90s?

Do what you love with swim, bike and run—and do it at the pace of you, the joy of you and don’t worry a lick about what the other people are doing. Think about who you can inspire, help, and prove the promise that hard work over time pays off. By just being you, you are working towards your utmost potential—and who knows who you might be inspiring along the way.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman: You Can Be a Triathlete. Yes. You.. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours. Meredith is married with two tweens and writes about all things at MeredithAtwood.com. Her next book, The Year of No Nonsense, is due out Fall 2019.