Ironman “Kona Inspired” athlete Kelly Miyahara has learned through both extraordinary triumphs and devastating tragedy that anything is possible. Kelly felt like “the luckiest girl in the world” when, in 2005, she was given her dream job: Jeopardy! Clue Crew member, allowing her to travel the world for a living.
After the tragic loss of her fellow Ironman teammate and friend, Marisela (Mari) Echeverria, Kelly set out to prove, once again, that anything is possible. This past month, she competed in honor of Mari in the Ironman Word Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
We caught up with Kelly recently and found out what makes her such an inspiring athlete.
Traveling Type: What made you decide you wanted to compete in Ironman?
Kelly Miyahara: The Ironman World Championship is a very special event. Think, the Super Bowl or World Cup of triathlons. It’s where the world’s best triathletes compete. Normally, the way to earn a slot there is to qualify by winning your age group at a “qualifying” Ironman event, win a lottery slot, or be invited as a special guest. My very special journey was as a Kona Inspired Contest Winner. I was 1 of 7 slot winners in an international contest that asked entrants to share inspiring stories following the Ironman mantra, “Anything is possible.”
What does it mean to be a “Kona Inspired” in Ironman?
Kona Inspired entrants submitted 90-second videos telling their stories fitting the mantra, “Anything is Possible.” My story is heartbreaking, yet it fits the mantra perfectly. On the very day of the Ironman World Championship last year, October 13, 2012, my friend and teammate, Marisela Echeverria, was struck and killed by a bus on the California coast while training for her first Ironman. We had shared the last 2 years of our lives as part of TEAM in Training (LA’s IronTEAM) while training and fundraising for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The night before our big day at Ironman Canada in 2012, Mari received a devastating phone call. Her father had passed away. Needless to say, she left to be with her family and didn’t race her first Ironman with the team. Not giving up, Mari got back out there a few weeks later after securing a charity slot into Ironman Arizona in November. Just 4 weeks before the race was when tragedy struck again. The unthinkable happened, and it was with Mari’s loss that I learned that anything really is possible.