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An RA Diagnosis Will Not Stop Me: Mary Salazar’s Inspirational Journey in Endurance Sports

An RA Diagnosis Will Not Stop Me Mary Salazar Run Tri Bike
Mary Salazar
Year started: 2011
Next race: August 18th / Coeur Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon / Boulder, CO
Favorite gear:
  • AirPods
  • Osprey WaterPak
  • Goodr Sunglasses

An RA diagnosis will not stop me. That was Mary Salazar’s thought as her journey into the world of running and triathlon began. Unlike many athletes who have a background in sports from a young age, Mary’s story began later in life and under challenging circumstances. “I was never in sports at all in high school. Really just did fun activities. I was 27, when I did my first half marathon,” she recalls. Her initial foray into running started with local 5Ks, but it was a significant life event that pushed her to aim higher.

Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis around the same time she began considering longer races, Mary decided to not let the diagnosis define her limits. “Once I kind of got that under control and wasn’t having the flare-ups, I got stubborn and just thought, this is the time to push your body and actually appreciate what it can do,” she shares. This determination led her to sign up for her first half marathon in Colorado.This was a decision that would set her on a transformative path while thinking that an RA diagnosis will not stop me.

Finding Strength in Adversity

The journey to her first half marathon was not without its challenges. Learning to manage her condition while training for a physically demanding sport was a balancing act. “I had that, ‘Oh, poor me,’ like, pity party, and then just that ability of, you know what? No. Your body can still do great things,I will not let an RA diagnosis stop me” Mary explains. Running became a source of empowerment for her, helping her to not only cope with her condition but to thrive despite it.

Completing her first half marathon was a significant milestone. “I got done, and my family was there cheering me on. I hurt but I did it. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. And sure enough, probably midway through that race, I was already thinking, I could do more,” Mary says. This triumph over her physical and mental barriers fueled her desire to continue participating in endurance sports.

Expanding Horizons: From Running to Triathlons

Mary’s journey didn’t stop with running. After conquering numerous half marathons, including in challenging locations like Glacier National Park and Alaska, she set her sights on a new challenge: triathlons. “I was on the couch in February, saw a thing come up for the triathlon, the Outdoor Divas triathlon, and it was gearing towards first-timers. I was just kind of like, yeah, why not?” she recalls.

The transition from running to triathlons introduced new dimensions to her training regimen. Mary found swimming to be a refreshing change, thanks to her previous experience with ocean swimming in Hawaii. Biking, however, presented a steeper learning curve. “I’ve always had a cruiser bike with maybe one gear, so getting used to that whole world was like, wow, okay. This is taking some getting used to,” she admits.

The Motivation Behind the Miles

What keeps Mary motivated through the ups and downs of training? For her, it’s the combination of physical, mental, and emotional benefits that endurance sports offer. “I think just the enjoyment I get out of being outside, getting that runner’s high. My other huge passion would be travel. So it kind of goes hand in hand,” she explains. The opportunity to explore new places while running adds an extra layer of excitement to her races.

Mary also values the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a race. The structured nature of training for events provides her with a sense of purpose and helps her manage stress in her daily life.


Advice for Aspiring Endurance Athletes

Mary’s journey provides insights for anyone looking to get into endurance sports. Her first piece of advice? Start small and be patient. “It seemed very daunting at first, but just baby steps. You start with 1 mile and you go from there,” she suggests. It’s about setting realistic goals and gradually building up endurance.

She also emphasizes the importance of finding a personal motivation. For Mary, it was the realization that she needed to make the most of her physical capabilities while she still could. “I wanted to push my body more than I ever really had because that was when it kind of hit me like, oh, you don’t have your body for the rest of your life. The RA diagnosis will not stop me and nothing will” she says.

Looking Ahead: Future Goals

Mary’s journey is far from over. With 17 states already checked off her list, she is determined to complete a half marathon in every state. Additionally, she’s exploring new challenges, such as trail running and potentially participating in international races. “I’d love to try Berlin. I’ve just heard so many cool things about that. There was a half-marathon in Cuba that would be super fun,” she muses.

Her upcoming sprint triathlon in August is another exciting milestone. As she prepares, she maintains a balanced perspective, focusing on the experience rather than just the outcome. “With this being my first tri, I think just finishing it, having fun doing it, not falling off my bike, not crashing. But, you know, I think I’m comfortable to swim, but then again, doing open water swimming in a reservoir is completely different,” she reflects.

An RA Diagnosis Will Not Stop Me

Mary Salazar’s story is a powerful reminder of what can be achieved through perseverance and a positive mindset. From her diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis to her accomplishments in running and triathlon, she has shown that obstacles can be turned into opportunities. Her journey serves as an inspiration to others, Mary is demonstrating that with the right mindset and motivation, anything is possible.