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Triathlon at 50? No Way – Courtney Culligan

Courtney Culligan
Year started: 1995
Next race: Ironman St. George 70.3, May 1. 2021
Favorite gear:

There is no much gear to choose from as a long course triathlete but in the past year especially I would consider my Wahoo Kickr my most important training tool.

Courtney’s Story:

If someone had told me ten years ago that I would be competing in triathlons, much less Ironman races, at the age of 50, I would never have believed it. In fact, I would have said, “No way, those people are crazy.” Yet, here I am today not only racing myself but also coaching others to follow their dreams in endurance sports.

Triathlon is a passion which began as a hobby and has now become a career. People often ask me how I manage to train for multi-sport events and successfully balance my busy life as a wife, mother, teacher and coach. The simple truth is this: I absolutely love everything I do. Life is a journey of self-discovery, lessons learned, dreams realized and passions followed.

Triathlon was a new beginning for me. It helped me grow in my self-confidence as a woman and it has enabled me to feel strong, powerful and independent. As the mother of three sons, I value the example that I set forth for my children. I want them to have an empathetic and positive view of the women who are a part of their lives and those who will enter their lives in the future. I believe this starts with a mother who feels good about herself and who feels good about the things she does for those around her.

I struggled with my self-image in my earlier years. My insecurities started in high school and continued well into my early 30’s. I was devastated when my Dad died of Acute Myeloid Leukemia in September, 2003 just weeks before the birth of my first son. It was a traumatic event and one which has had a long lasting effect on me. I threw myself into my new role as mother in order to mask my grief. I felt like I owed it to my father to be the best mother I could be and to pick myself up and forge onward. But, I forgot about myself in the process.

My husband and I had two more sons in the next three years. With each of my pregnancies, I was on bed rest for six months. Bed rest was a challenge for me physically and emotionally. It taught me the importance of mental strength. I had been busy and active my whole life. Lying in bed for months at a time was not an easy task for me. This gave me a new perspective on the power of will and the strength of self-belief.

I started running again when our youngest son Tommy was only 6 weeks old. My endurance had diminished and my muscles had weakened but I was determined to get it back into shape! I completed my first half-marathon post baby in less than two hours and I was thrilled with the results. I learned to balance the challenges of our home life with my love for swimming, running and cycling. My self-confidence grew, my stress reduced and I became a stronger and happier woman! I crossed the finish line at my first triathlon in 2011.

In the ten years since then, I have proudly completed ten Ironman 70.3 races, qualified for the USAT National Championships eight times, raced in two world championship events and completed my first full Ironman in Louisville, Ky in 2019 after a major surgery the year before.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”- Martin Luther King

I think about this quote on every challenging training day. I am incredibly blessed to have a wonderful and supportive husband who appreciates what triathlon has brought to my life and sons who are proud to be on the sidelines cheering at my events. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and the women I have met.

There is so much to learn about yourself by setting new goals, scary goals, for yourself and traveling the challenging journey to that finish line. It has been one of the best experiences of my life. I hope it will be one of yours as well.