My Friends! We don't celebrate each other enough! So, with the help of my friends at Feisty Menopause, we reached out to YOU to share your stories. This is the third post of an ongoing monthly series where we will be celebrating all you bad-ass women who, at age 50+, decided you were just getting started! Cheers! Carla
Comfort Zone?… What’s that? Mary’s athletic career is defined by looking fear in the face and saying - I’m not having it! From her first time biking and running in her 40s and learning to swim at age 50, she became a triathlete - with a cancer diagnosis and treatment in the midst of it all! Mary’s story is a true inspiration for anyone - especially those who are afraid to try something for the first time.
Mary is the oldest of 14 children and a 30+ year native of Wildwood, Missouri, USA! She was never really athletic growing up or as a young adult, however, she was active in aerobic activities and walking. In her early 40s, she tried biking for the first time after some friends asked her to go riding with them. This was uncomfortable and scary for her - but she bought a hybrid bike. The more she rode, the more she loved it and in no time, did her first-century ride!
As siblings often do, Mary’s sister (she has 7 sisters!) challenged her to a half-marathon. Having never run before, she was convinced that she couldn’t do it- but she learned to ride a bike! So she went to the middle-school track and tried. She describes the first time she ran 2 miles without stopping as one of the best days of her life! Since then, she has been running for 12 years with multiple half-marathons and 3 full marathons under her belt!
But wait - there’s more! I’m not sure if this was another sibling challenge, but at age 50 she learned to swim for the first time. With the experience of learning to bike and run for the first time, she was ready to take on swimming - even though she couldn’t even put her face in the water. But she brought her goggles and nose plug to the local YMCA and learned! Once liberated by ditching the nose plug and a year of practice, she was ready for her first triathlon.
As a trial run, she and her husband signed up for an Olympic distance at a nearby lake a week before the triathlon. Having never swum in open water, she panicked, and could not do the race. During the week before her first triathlon, she persevered and completed the swim. This was epic for her!
From here, a 70.3 was in her sights (another sibling challenge) for Boulder, CO in September of 2019! But Mary was faced with yet another challenge.
In August of 2019, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully I was able to finish the tri. Immediately after that, I had surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Then the dreaded aromatase inhibitors, my necessary evil. I’m two years out of treatment and just completed a 25K trail run. I did not let it get the best of me.
Through all of this, Mary was fortunate to have supportive people all around her. She remembers that one of her greatest joys was doing so many events with her sisters, who all began this adventure with her in adulthood (but Mary reminds me that she was the oldest!).
Another powerful gift is that I really didn’t expect how very strong, physically, I have become and just how good it feels. Even if my body doesn’t always look the way I want it to, it feels so good to be strong.
Mary’s best advice is to “Get out of your head. Mine always tries to tell me what I can and can’t do. I’ve learned not to trust the fear and the voice that says that’s too hard or too much”
Today, at age 58, Mary is a retired registered dietician. She swears by Pilates and Yoga and now swims without a watch - just for the joy of being able to swim. She also enjoys gardening, reading, kayaking, and camping with her husband of 40 years.
Thank you, Mary, for your inspiration and for sharing your incredible story!
YAY!!!! I am one of Mary's sisters and its true her work ethic toward life and self-improvement inspires me everyday!!!