Triathlons possible even for those with physical limitations

Triathlons typically consist of swimming 2.4 miles, bicycling 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles in succession. This format became popularized by the Iron Man event held annually in Hawaii.

Recently, shorter variations of this format have made triathlons accessible to mere mortals who wish to train and compete but also have a job and family that get in the way.

The challenge of completing a triathlon is intoxicating for many athletes. Katherine Downes is a young woman originally from Glastonbury and now living in New York City. An accomplished swimmer, in 2006 she began to notice symptoms of diminishing stamina. Even short walks became a struggle.

Katie was born with an atrial septal defect (ASD), a hole between the right and left atria of the heart, which did not become symptomatic until her 20s. As a result of the ASD, the normal cardiac bloodflow is reversed and overloads the right ventricle and lungs.

After several attempts the ASD was repaired, giving Katie a new appreciation of sports. With her physician’s approval, she joined a group called “Team in Training” that prepares athletes for participation in triathlons with the goal of raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Katie is set to compete in her first triathlon on April 26 in St. Petersburg, Fla. “Pushing yourself to accomplish an athletic feat despite physical obstacles makes reaching that goal even more special,” Downes said.

Recent studies have emphasized the risk of participation in triathlons. Many athletes are not accustomed to swimming in often frigid, open water. It is imperative that before participating in these events, clearance be obtained by a physician and an adequate amount of time invested in training.

When an athlete participates in any event with the goal of raising money for the less fortunate, the accomplishment becomes doubly rewarding.

If you wish to support Katie’s effort, donations can be made by going to

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