The story of Karen Aydelott serves as an inspiration to all common folks when physicality comes to mind. Most of us may not be Ironman material but can take comfort that the human body can achieve that far in the world of physical endurance. When we see the mountains that they overcome, we ought to be inspired that the little we do to keep ourselves fit and healthy is just what it is – a little. This only means that we have an ocean of potentiality to tap into. 

Photo: You Tube                                                                                       Photo: ironman.com

Karen, a 67 year old American from San Luis Obispo, California, is an amputee – a result from complications suffered from a car accident in 2006. Although she tried various surgeries to right her injury, she sadly decided to undergo amputation in 2008. She felt that it was the best decision to make.

But what’s astounding is she had just completed the Ironman triathlon – a gruelling 2.4 mile swim combined with a 112-mile bike race and a full marathon of 26.2 miles. She completed the race before the midnight cut-off time and accomplished that feat in Arizona in 16 hours, 11 minutes and 12 seconds. However, this was her 29th. Ironman triathlon.

Looking back, Karen, the daughter of an army doctor, was originally from Philadelphia. She swam competitively and was into ballet during high school. There weren’t many options then. That was when she felt she was made for long distance endurance because the longer the race was the more she liked it. She moved to Decatur, Illinois after her father retired and went into private practice.

At college, at Wellesley, she studied Art History and was into synchronized swimming and modern dance. However, she only took up running in the early 1970s after becoming a mother to two boys. She had just wanted to stay in shape. Karen lived in Minneapolis after marriage, for 25 years, before relocating to her current domain in San Luis Obispo, California in 1996. She had married for the second time to John Robbins in 1999. Karen Aydelott completed her first Ironman triathlon in 1989 in Hawaii at the Ironman World Championships but at the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in 1997, she was ranked 5th. in her age group. She was aged 51 and completed that race in 11 hours, 49 minutes and 56 seconds.

Karen slowly rebuilt her strength after her surgery in July 2008 and received her first prosthetic leg in September. By December of that year, she was already cycling. A year later she did the Big Rock - an international distance triathlon - and thereafter the Desert Triathlon the following spring; plus Ironman 70.3 California. Last November she completed her first Ironman triathlon in Arizona as an amputee and also won her age group. She had qualified for the 2012 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

Karen Aydelott credits the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) with helping her get to where she is now. Since losing her leg, she has been supported by the CAF – a benevolent body which gives those with the desire to live active and competitive lifestyles every opportunity to compete in the sports they love. Karen has also customarily been active as a volunteer with the YMCA since young and has rose to executive director, even from Minneapolis, and is presently with the “Y” in San Luis Obispo.

Karen’s story is inspirational. She pushes physicality to the outer limits while most of us only strive for a commitment to work out just to keep fit and healthy. As a reminder, the human body is indeed a marvel which has been designed to be durable and to adapt to challenging conditions so long as the will persists.