Katie Letchworth SpeaksUp

Ever since I was child, I have experienced anxiety. I never really knew just what it was because I just assumed everyone felt that sudden onset of panic the night before the first day of school, the minute you walk into a doctor’s office, or even the day, hour, minutes leading up to the start of a swim meet. It wasn’t until towards the end of high school that I really started to struggle with my anxiety and depression, and things took a turn for the worse. Everyone thought on the outside that I was ecstatic to be going off to college, but inside I was beyond terrified, and struggled to communicate this. Every worry of going off to college that you could imagine started to consume my every thought, day in and day out.  It took a toll on not only my mental health, but also my physical health. My biggest supporter has been my family, and they rallied behind me to get the help I needed.  They saw me through every hospitalization, doctor visit, diagnosis, misdiagnosis (unfortunately), and eventual understanding of my anxiety and depression.

I decided to take up running more seriously, as this had always helped relieve some anxiety. While training for my first half marathon in 2016, I was introduced to the world of triathlon.  I vowed that if I could complete my first half marathon still smiling and happy, that my next goal would be a Half Ironman. Upon jumping head first into triathlon training, I learned about Cameron’s story. I was so inspired, as I had struggled so many years believing I was battling anxiety and depression alone. I knew my next race wouldn't be a triathlon, but the 2017 Shamrock Half Marathon with CKG. Even though we faced brutal weather conditions that day, all I could think about was Cameron, and helping to end the stigma while never giving up the fight. My hands may have never been so cold in my life that day, but my heart was so warm and touched by the entire CKG group spreading Cameron’s message. 
 
I quickly found that racing in my adult years is less about the competition and more about the support, gratitude, and happiness I feel out on the course. Yes, we all want to do well, but I want to look back and remember the fun I had, the people I met, the stories I heard, and the beauty of the day.  I go into each race with one goal in mind… to have as much fun as possible and SMILE, even when the going gets tough. With the amazing support of my family, friends, and teammates, I toed the start line of a Half Ironman and for the next 5 hours and 55 minutes I did just that. In fact, I had so much fun, I didn’t want the race or day to end, and why I signed up for a Full Ironman this year :) Although I will always struggle with anxiety and depression, I have learned so much about myself in the last couple of years. I am inspired each and every day to spread Cameron’s word, help end the stigma, and spread awareness about mental illness. It is such an honor to be part of this incredible mission and to fulfill Cameron’s dream.

Julie Basinski