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A tribute to Bethany - Keep triathlon fun

I've been filled with emotions over the past week after learning of the passing of Bethany Rutledge. Bethany passed away in her sleep while taking a nap. Bethany was a leader, mentor and hero in the Atlanta triathlon community. Far and wide, anyone who met Bethany could instantly see her love for triathlon, her twin boys, her husband/family, writing, dogs and life. To learn more about Bethany, here are a few beautifully written letters:

Remembering Bethany
Remembering Bethany - Triathlete Magazine

Times like this really shake me up. While the loss of a loved one can change your life, it can also change the way that you live your life. Ever since my dad passed away in 2014, I've made a conscious effort to live each day to the fullest. Regardless of the day or what obstacles I have to overcome, tasks I need to complete or how I am feeling, I try to live the day as if it is my last. Knowing that I can't quit my job and travel the world with Karel and Campy, there are still daily decisions that I can make in an effort to make the most of the day. One thing that makes me feel alive on a daily basis is the sport of triathlon.

When I think of the role of triathlon in the life of Bethany, I think FUN. As a leader in her tri community, she was very accomplished but also very humble. While I didn't know Bethany on a very close level, I know she welcomed everyone into the sport. This allowed athletes and exercise enthusiasts to feel like a triathlete without judgement.

I love the sport of triathlon. I've been racing competitively for the past 13 years and I couldn't imagine my life in any other way. It's my passion, hobby and business. Bethany always did an exceptional job of changing the way that outsiders look in at our sport. But as an insider looking out, we need to continue to keep triathlon fun.

Triathlon is a fun sport. Triathlon, like any other sport, offers a stress release, an opportunity to exercise, an escape from the office to nature, the opportunity to feel accomplished and the strength and tools to overcome failure. But if you hang with the wrong people, read too much or become too serious about it, it can quickly becomes overly competitive, draining, exhausting and obsessive.

For many, fun may seem counter-intuitive to peak performance. But fun is what keeps you in a sport - it's also what got you started. As people get older or more accomplished, it's easy to lose the ability to have fun. When fun is removed from sport (or never found), sport becomes a burden in your life. You can't quit figure out why you do what you do. When you have fun and truly enjoy yourself, you are more capable of dealing with everything else in life and there's purpose with your training and racing.

We all know that life isn't always fun.

Life is tough. It's often serious, sad and difficult. Triathlon is a beautiful escape from life. Triathlon shouldn't be all serious and hard work. Sure, being dedicating and working hard makes you a better athlete but if you are overly serious, competitive and extreme, you probably aren't having much fun. 

Bethany did an exceptional job leading the way to show others that triathlon and fun can coexist. Incorporating fun into your triathlon training and racing should not be difficult to do but if you have lost sight of why you are a triathlete (or why you started the sport), you may have lost the fun in triathlon. It's important to your physical, mental and emotional health as well as to your athletic success to keep your sport fun.

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals that make you feel great about yourself - and your decision to be a triathlete. Don't fall into the trap that you need to look, eat or train a certain way to call yourself a triathlete. If you are scared to get started, join a club/coach and find someone who can help guide you. Success looks different on everyone. Triathlon is not about podiums, PRs, body image or fancy equipment. It's about enjoyment, passion, development, personal exploration, building self confidence, overcoming fears, physical activity, health, learning new skills, supporting others, socializing, improving body awareness and of course, having fun! Having love for your sport, your body and your health is more important than results.

If you are a triathlete, coach or future triathlete, help me keep triathlon fun.. I know Bethany would want it that way.