The Finish Line is Just the Beginning

By: Mary Kate Callahan | Sr. Consultant, Global HRIS Transformation | Elite Paratriathlete

Published Jun 25, 2021

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There is never a good time to close a chapter of life that has brought so much joy. But there is a time to trust in new beginnings, goals, and dreams. And for me, that is now.

I’m at the finish line of what has been an incredible 11 year chapter of my life. A chapter that has defined me as an athlete but more importantly a chapter that has shaped me into the person that so many know today. A chapter that has been an accumulation of thousands of miles running and biking, hundreds of training hours, plenty of 5am swims fueled by too much caffeine, many tears, numerous flat tires, unforgettable podium finishes wearing the USA uniform, but most importantly a community of people that have stood behind me through it all.

This chapter was about more than what I was able to accomplish as an athlete. For me, it will be defined by who I was and what I learned during that time.

The identity of being an athlete is something I cherish. It’s the identity that I’m most proud of. The lessons you learn while being athlete extend well beyond training and competing. As this chapter comes to a close, I’ve taken the time to reflect back on each step that has brought me to today.

I was the 6 year old who threw her hands in the air and waved to the crowd of teammates and parents before every single race.

I’m proud of her because it taught me how to never take life too serious. If you’re going to work hard – make sure you’re having fun too.

I was the 10 year old who played wheelchair basketball on a team with all boys. I may not have been the highest scoring athlete on the court but I proudly rolled onto the court in my pink wheelchair, leveraged my speed and grit, and played one heck of a game of defense – even if it meant getting fouled out of plenty of games 🙂

I’m proud of her because it taught me how to be fierce. It didn’t matter who you were, how old you were, or what your abilities were. It was up to you to work hard and show up for yourself and others.

I was the 15 year old who was looked straight in the eyes and told she wasn’t an athlete due to her disability. I knew I never want to hear those words ever again but more importantly- I didn’t want another person hear those words again. I advocated for equal opportunity within the legal system. I saw my role as an athlete expand way beyond the pool.

I’m proud of her because it taught me how important it is to advocate for yourself and others. Your voice is one of the most powerful tools you will ever have.

I was the 17 year old who made her first World Championship team. I traveled to New Zealand for my very first international race that I didn’t even finish due to a mechanical issue on my bike half way through the race. I was crushed. But it was also in that moment that I knew I wanted to continue to pursue an elite racing career.

I’m proud of her because it taught me that the failures in life are usually what we learn from most. You will get knocked down plenty of times in life but those will be the moments that fuel you for the next time.

I was the 20 something year old girl who was determined to make it all work. I experienced my first international podiums, explored the world by racing and training across it, spent training camps studying for finals, graduated college, and realized how its ok to be out of balance when you’re chasing goals that are important to you.

I’m proud of her because it taught me that if something is important to you there is always enough time in the day. Not all paths will look the same but if it makes you happy – that is all that matters.

Today, I’m the 26 year old who is beyond grateful for what the last 11 years have taught me. I told myself when I started my elite racing career 11 years ago that when it all ended I wanted to look back being able to answer these 3 things:

Did I try my absolutely best no matter what cards were handed to me each day? Did I show up for people and help bring out the best in them when I had the chance? And did I do all of this while having fun?

Today, the end is here and all I can do is smile. Not all days were pretty but every single second was worth it.

I’m walking away from this elite racing career with the same amount of joy I had for it when I started. And because of that – I won’t be going too far. I’m eager to have more time tackle new mountains (literally), chase new goals, and most importantly help others tap into their own potential and find their own starting line.

It’s time for me to cross this finish line and help the next generation soar.

And I can’t wait.