“It doesn’t matter what other people think. Not everyone is going to always support you 100% but as long as you are doing you and you know that you’re becoming a better person then that’s what’s important.”
How does a relatively conservative, risk averse person evolve into an unbreakable champion? Someone confident enough to put everything on the line for an audacious dream?
This is the story of Gwen Jorgensen — an accountant turned ‘Queen of Triathlon' who walked away from swim-bike-run at the peak of her powers to ply her skills in an entirely new discipline: the marathon.
Gwen’s athletic career began as a swimmer, competing at the University of Wisconsin as a walk on before making the switch to track & field, maturing into an NCAA standout and Big 10 Champion. But the end of college marked the end of her athletic ambitions. Declining a professional running career, she opted for civilian life, joining Ernst & Young as a CPA.
Eventually, USA Triathlon lured Gwen back to athletics. Within two years, Gwen made her first Olympic team and matured into the sport's dominant force, accumulating 2 Triathlon World Champion titles and 17 ITU World Triathlon Series wins, culminating in gold at the 2016 Games in Rio.
After a year off racing to give birth to her son Stanley, Gwen announced her retirement from triathlon, along with a brazen new goal: to win marathon gold in Tokyo.
It's a feat no American woman has accomplished since Joan Benoit Samuelson broke the tape at the inaugural women's marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympiad.
A few weeks ago I was invited by Jaybird Sport to join a group of adventure-seeking endurance junkies in Montana's Glacier National Park. The official occasion was to celebrate the launch of Jaybird's new Vista wireless earbuds (which I'm loving by the way). The unofficial occasion was to retreat and connect — old-school, analog campfire style — with like-minded, high vibration humans. It's a group that included Gwen and husband Patrick Lemieux, as well as a few former podcast guests like Knox Robinson (RRP #394), Timothy Olson (RRP #78), and Sanjay Rawal (RRP #389).
This podcast is a product of that uniquely beautiful experience — a great conversation and audience Q&A conducted outdoors with my fellow Jaybird retreat attendees.
It's about Gwen's career. Her philosophy on training and racing. Overcoming injury. And the why behind her decision to pursue the marathon.
It's about how her ambitious dream was received by the running community, and what she has learned training alongside legends like Shalane Flanagan at the Bowerman Track Club.
It's about her ‘Champion Only' mindset. The nature of her motivation. The importance of agency — the freedom to forge her own unique path. And why this power is so crucial to Gwen's success and happiness.
Finally, we explore how she balances her career as a full-time professional athlete against marriage, family and motherhood — and the crucial role Gwen's husband Patrick (who makes a cameo appearance) plays in her success equation.
But most of all, this is an exploration of the tension between risk and certainty. The rare courage required to walk away from success.
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