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Beginner’s Luck: The Gift of Sport

Triathlon will always be there for you—no matter what you're going through or how much or little attention you're willing to give it.

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At a PlayTri Kansas City event last night, I had the joy of meeting over 20 women from all levels of the sport of triathlon. I truly value getting to know the people I meet—what races they’ve done, what’s next, what scares them.

I particularly like to hear what scares them. (Is that weird?)

Part of the reason I like to talk about fear is because fear is such a universal human experience. We are easily scared of the unknown, failing, and sometimes even succeeding. We are scared of our past, the uncertainty of the future, and everything in between. Normalizing the fear of the sport of triathlon is a key component of succeeding—your definition of success, mind you—in the sport.

Once we get past the closest and most threatening fear (for example, the fear of swimming) it’s easy to install a myriad of other not-so-great emotions: unreasonable pressure, comparison to others (or a past version of ourselves), panic training, and irrational fears about whatever we can conjure to stand in the way of our success and enjoyment of the sport.

As I told the wonderful women last night, I always look at triathlon in the realm of life. How does this sport add to my life, my goals, my future? What do swim, bike and run give to me? I also talked about how we have a duty to give back to the sport—be ambassadors, good sports, and beacons of light for people that might be in our same starting point. We can shine the light and say, “This way! Triathlon helps you learn your strength and greatness.”

At the same time, triathlon is not necessarily the purpose for our life. Outside of the pros, we are not required to do the sport. Very few of us ever get paid for racing. We are doing it for health benefits, community, competitive spirit, and other reasons.

This is your friendly reminder about perspective—about fear, about triathlon as an addition to your life.

And as Mike Reilly told me recently, “Triathlon will always be there for you. Maybe you are at a time in your life where you feel you no longer need it. But someday, you might. And that’s the beauty of the sport. You can swim, bike, and run/walk at any age and it’s always there when you need it.”

That Mike—he’s a truth-teller. I thought about this and I whole-heartedly agree.

When I was heavy into triathlon, I desperately needed a whole life overhaul. So many things needed to change. I used that precious swim, bike, and run time—the long hours of long-distance training, especially—to figure out my next life move. And right now, I don’t have the compulsion or need to train like I did in my two-Ironman year. My life is different.

But I do have the need to be involved in the sport—in whatever ways I can.

Why? Because Mike is right (of course). Triathlon will always be there for you. And people need to know that amazing gift about swim, bike, and run.

It’s the giving sport that can remain a constant beacon of hope, change, and power. Sometimes the purpose of triathlon in relation to us ebbs and flows. Life can be hard and confusing, but knowing triathlon will be there (always) when we are ready… well, that is a sweet comfort unlike any other.

In addition to writing “Beginner’s Luck” every week for, Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of the new best-seller, Triathlon for the Every Woman: You Can Be a Triathlete. Yes. You. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours. Meredith lives in Overland Park, Kansas (for now!) with her husband and two tweens and writes about all things at Her next book, The Year of No Nonsense, will be released December 2019.