Imagine a world where a young boy meets a celebrated sports hero - like a Shalane Flanagan or Megan Rapinoe - and walks away with a message to his parents, teachers, and all of his friends that he “wants to be just like HER” when he grows up. And this is understood to mean that he wants to excel due to his great athleticism and work ethic that inspires unity and sportsmanship across his sport or business, regardless of gender.
It is Women’s History Month, so let's celebrate women in endurance sports who shine in their field, dutifully march toward their mission, and have their own hero-worthy stories. The women who are highlighted here have personally moved me to action or (happy) tears, compelling me to spread their good word. These women, like Shalane and Meghan, are not great role models for just girls and women. They are great role models, period. They are intelligent, driven, dedicated, and fearless.
Each of the women here are so very special for a different reason - pushing boundaries, joy, passion, mission, humility, intelligence, calm, and so much more. Enjoy getting to know each and every one of these women, as you watch, follow, support, and imitate them in your life, your sport, and your career.
Alyssa Godesky is a professional triathlete, ultrarunner, coach, host of the Ironwomen podcast, and current holder of the female/supported FKT (fastest known time) on the 273-mile Vermont Long Trail. Alyssa makes this list because she pushes her boundaries without totally knowing what she is getting into, and doesn’t confine herself to the status quo, such as ‘triathletes can’t compete against pure runners’ or ‘it’s a bad idea to race Ironman-distance events on back-to-back weekends.’ She goes to 11 with every challenge, and seems to do so for the learning process as much as for the professional accolades.
Not gonna lie. I get exhausted just looking at Amber’s Instagram feed. She personifies the Energizer bunny to a nearly inhuman level. She embraces her imperfections, she can do a seemingly infinite number of weighted pull-ups, she only does the hardest races, she believes in recovery donuts, she wears a donut swimsuit, and she’s done all of this after making a comeback from a year off due to adrenal fatigue. Clearly, Amber deserves to be on this list because of her passion for donuts. But also because she is a positive force of nature who lives the true multisport lifestyle. Could you keep up with her?
Marilyn Chychota is an endurance coach, public speaker, and professional athlete. Her intensity is scary (in a good way!) and her knowledge of the art of coaching is world-class. Marilyn started her career in equestrian show jumping which (naturally) evolved into triathlon. As a professional triathlete, she trained under some of the best coaches in the world, and brings her learnings to her coaching business today. She races bikes professionally, but you can tell that her heart and soul are really with the athletes that she coaches. Marilyn is my mentor as well as my coaching role model, fully dedicated to developing athletes, not just getting them to the starting line of a bucket-list race.
Rose Grant is a professional Mountain Biker who came on my radar with this picture of her after crossing the finish line at the 2019 Leadville 100 MTB race. Two things about this picture stopped the scroll: First, the heart-melting humanity of her embrace with her daughter projected the parental sacrifices you know she had to make to win that race, AND the fact that these sacrifices were being supported and celebrated, rather than resented, by her daughter. The second thing that caught my attention was that she was old enough to have a 6-yr-old daughter! As a late bloomer to mountain biking myself, Rose has come to be my inspiration for trying new sports and continuing to push my boundaries, no matter how old people tell me I am.
Dr. Sara Gross
Where do I begin? In addition to being a personal business mentor, I’m not sure I would be writing this article if I had never met Sara Gross. Sara is the CEO (aka Feisty Chief) of Live Feisty Media, a co-founder of the Outspoken Women in Triathlon Summit, a PhD in Women’s History, and a former professional triathlete. Sara has a flare for perfectly combining and mission and fun in her work with Live Feisty, a media company that covers the stories of women in endurance sports. Although she was an Ironman champion once upon a time, she now inspires with her entrepreneurship, crossfit, hip-hop dancing, TikToks, and her celebration of women in sport.
Dr. Stacy Sims
ROAR. If you don’t have a copy of this book, buy it now. Dr. Stacy Sims is world-renowned for her work as an exercise physiologist, nutrition scientist, and research scientist who specializes in women’s health and performance. Her mantra, TED talk, and online course, “Women Are Not Small Men,” reveals that most athlete research has been conducted with male subjects, yet we have been blindly applying the findings to female athletes. Dr. Sims’ work shows us that female athletes experience training benefits and nutrition differently, depending on their age and where they are in their menstrual cycle. Thanks to Stacy Sims, female athletes are talking openly with each other and with their male coaches about their periods and menopause symptoms. Her message is straight-forward, no-fuss, and ground-breaking for women’s health.
Nicole Ver Kuilen
Did you know that a single prosthetic limb can cost $5,000 to $50,0000? And that amputees need several types of prosthetics for daily activities (walking, showering, etc.)? And athletes need even more specialized equipment? AND that many insurance plans don’t cover the cost of these prosthetics, citing them as mere “conveniences”? No, I didn’t know this either. Until I met Nicole Ver Kuilen at a recent screening of her documentary, “1500 Miles.” Nicole is a Paratriathlon Athlete of the Year, amputee, and founder of Forrest Stump, an organization that is working to raise the standard of care for amputees. In addition to being a driven and hard-working athlete, Nicole is humble, well-spoken, and pragmatic. Inspiration beyond!
Dr. Tekemia Dorsey
Dr. Tekemia Dorsey is the CEO of the International Association of Black Triathletes (IABT), the first African American on the USA Triathlon Board of Directors, business consultant, and youth and junior elite triathlon coach. I became entranced by Tekemia during her talk on Leadership at the Outspoken Women in Triathlon Summit in 2019. Tekemia outlined eight different leadership styles and challenged each of us to question what type of leader we are. She physically moved the entire room, called on… nay, DEMANDED each individual person to speak, and had the entire room screaming uninhibited self-affirmations at the top of our lungs. I’ve never seen anything like it! It was as terrifying as it was empowering. Tekemia is a great example of moving forward with passion, a plan, and blinders to get to the finish line.
Not sure how to describe Hilaree Nelson because she is so beyond. She’s a ski mountaineer, climber, explorer, athlete who was named Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic Magazine in 2018. I first heard of her on the Rich Roll Podcast and it wasn’t just her story that caught my attention, it was her soothing voice. The way she speaks of her epic expeditions could be interpreted as near-nonchalance, but then you realize that it is her clarity and calm that enables her to accomplish what she does. To experience it for yourself, watch her 20-minute documentary, “Down To Nothing,” about her expedition through Myanmar to discover a new peak. To get to the peak, she had to first trek 70 miles through the jungle, and during this trek, everything from luggage to transportation to food supply was going wrong. At one point, the camera zooms in on her letting out a little scream, shaking her head with a smirk, talking about how they have to overcome “catastrophic moments” every day. And her calm demeanor and full acceptance of the situation gave me perspective. If this woman could persevere in these conditions, certainly I could tough it out through a silly little Ironman or marathon. Perspective. Thank you, Hilaree.
Dr. Veronica Ivy
When you hold a minority belief and you’re fighting a history of misinformation, you better have prepared your case without a single stone unturned. And this describes the crusade of Dr. Veronica Ivy, a professor of philosophy at the College of Charleston, Masters Track Cycling World Champion, and advocate for transgender participation in sport. Regardless which side of the transgender debate you sit on, if you care about human rights and fair competition, please take the time to watch Veronica's presentation with an open mind and heart. She is articulate, intelligent, powerful, and fair. Not to mention, calm and composed. My world view shifted after hearing her speak. Powerful stuff.
This list of inspiring, ass-kicking women could be very long. I would love to hear who inspires you! Please leave comments here and spread the word of powerful, inspiring role models.