Knowing when to let go: Why I’m no longer a triathlete

Some of you might be under the impression that I stopped being a triathlete when I became chronically ill. But the truth is I actually stopped exactly 3 years ago: over a year before my illness started.

I purposely say that I stopped being a triathlete rather than that I stopped doing triathlons. In fact I have done a couple in the past 3 years and was even considering taking part in today’s Malta National Triathlon Championships.

That didn’t work out for a couple of reasons but the beauty of having completely recovered from my chronic illness is that I know if ever I choose to, I can do a triathlon (details of my health journey here).

And all this reminded me of something I had written in May 2014. Although it’s primarily about my decision to no longer be a triathlete, it’s also about any big changes we choose to make in our lives. And about how we should embrace such changes and always remember the reasons we decided to make the change.

So enough with the introductory chit-chat. This is what I wrote seven months after choosing to stop being a triathlete. 

1. To be (or not to be) a triathlete

I am no longer a triathlete. 

Being a triathlete is not the same as doing triathlons. Being a triathlete is a lifestyle. You do and you plan things a certain way. You wake up early every day. You make sacrifices and without wanting to, you also make some selfish decisions because you’re a triathlete. 

But at the end of the day, you’re a triathlete because you love it. For the feeling of satisfaction from working hard for a goal every day and finally achieving it. You’re a triathlete for how it makes you feel and for everything it saves you from.

2. Why would anyone want to be a triathlete?
It’s hard for non-athletes to understand fully. Why would you want to wake up early and fit so many hard training sessions into an already busy schedule? How is it possible to train so much and remain motivated? 

I’d be lying if I said I never asked myself such questions. But although there were times when I did question it, I fell in love with the sport in 2006 and remained a triathlete until I hung up my bike after the National Championships in 2013 and decided to focus on running instead of triathlon.

3. So why would a triathlete want to stop being a triathlete?
Some people ask why I made that decision. If I loved it so much, why didn’t I keep finding the time for it? 

The truth is I didn’t stop because I didn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve, or even because I had achieved all I wanted to achieve. I didn’t stop because I was tired of it or bored of it. 

I stopped because the time was no longer right for me. Other things started to take priority in my life and I wanted to have more time to enjoy those things. Not rush to fit them in around the busy schedule of a triathlete. 

4. Enjoying it while it lasts but knowing how to let go and move on
Times change and knowing how to let go and move on and accept that things do change is all a part of it. 

When I could be a triathlete, it was amazing and I loved it. Yes of course the choice to actually be a triathlete excluded other things. I might not have partied as hard as some of my friends. But I also gained so much which I wouldn’t have otherwise:

  • So many friends, so many amazing experiences. 
  • The feeling of crossing the finish line knowing you’ve given all you could and that all your efforts were worthwhile. 
  • Representing Malta and being part of the team. 
  • Being on the podium. 
  • Meeting friends for training and sharing experiences. 

So many experiences that it’s impossible to list them all. But they’re all memories of such a happy time in my life.

But a happy time – which like so many other things – has to end at some point. Who’s to say if I’ll ever go back to it? Right now it doesn’t look likely. 

I’m so happy and grateful that I got to be a triathlete for all those years. 

But I’m also happy and grateful that in October I took that decision. No regrets for the 7 years as a triathlete. But definitely no regrets either for the past 7 months of not being a triathlete. 

5. And always holding on to the happy memories
Of course I do sometimes miss being a triathlete – something which was such a big part of my life for so long. It was strange when I opened a shoe box wondering what might be in it – only to find my previously prized (and regularly used) cycling shoes which have now been untouched for seven months. But nostalgia is normal for happy times. 

Yet the beauty of it is in enjoying it while it lasts, but then being able to look back on it as an amazing time while being able to redefine yourself without it. 

Being able to enjoy new experiences, but always being able to look back on the old experiences and smile and laugh and remember. Just to remember how good it felt. 

Sport will always be an important part of my life – I wouldn’t like to imagine myself without it and I don’t think the people around me would either. 

I’m very happy that I was a triathlete. But for the time being I’m happy I’m not as it’s giving me more time to be a daughter, a sister, a friend and pretty soon a wife :)

(Written in May 2014 three months before Dermot and I got married)

And as I said in the beginning, now that I've recovered, I know that if I want to take part in a triathlon some day I can. And I'll always be grateful that DNRS gave me my life and such possibilities back. If you want to find out how I recovered, you can read more here.