How We Liv: Kathrin Walther Dives Headfirst into her Comeback
I love life. I believe diving headfirst into adventure and the unknown is the best way to become a stronger, happier, healthier and wiser person. Endurance sports, and Ironman-distance triathlons, in particular, have become a way to explore my limits and push the envelope.
Born into an active family, I played all kind of sports – from gymnastics to horseback riding, to tennis, track and field, and even circus and cheerleading, to mention only a few. My love for going longer distances became apparent at the age of 15 when I studied abroad in Australia and later New Zealand. There, staying with my host family far away from the city, I picked up a daily running routine as a form of entertainment. Breaking my own distance running records soon turned into my favorite hobby. I remember clearly how one day my host dad and our neighbor had gone out on their quad bikes to search for the lost German teenager in the bush, as it was getting dark. Meanwhile, I was happily cracking another 3-hour run, thinking of nothing strange about it. It must have been sometime back then when I ran my first marathon, on my own in the forest – just for fun.
After high school was over at age 19, I went on a gap year to travel the world. My first stop was Taiwan, where I originally intended to study Mandarin. However, a few weeks later I found myself sitting on my new Giant bike instead, racing triathlons and cycling around the island of Taiwan. My passion for triathlon and my potential in endurance sports soon showed first signs of success, and three months later I found myself training with the national triathlon squad in Hong Kong.
I have very fond memories from these times of athletic exploration and adventure. As my focus shifted to becoming a high-performance triathlete, my purpose stayed rooted in a quest for adventure, a desire to grow and to explore and to continuously innovate and show what’s possible.
While studying Sports Science in Munich, I spent a semester abroad in South Africa and got hooked by Stellenbosch – a little triathlon-crazy town near Cape Town. Until this day, I haven’t left. I spend the European winters in South Africa training and studying, and summers in Germany while racing. It is a lifestyle with challenges and hurdles and big rewards at the same time.
With everything in line, 2017 looked like it would be my breakthrough year. My training was peaking, I had found the right environment, coaches, and support. All I needed to do was execute.
But, as I found out, sometimes life happens while you’re busy making other plans. On February 9th, I was on my scooter into town when I crashed hard into the door of a car. Besides a head injury, I suffered an open fracture and dislocation of bones in my left foot. The injury was followed by a misdiagnosis, some complications, and five surgeries in a little over three months. I spent most of my time unable to walk, sleeping or staring at the ceiling.
The prognosis was rather bad, some doctors said I would never be able to walk normally again. Within the blink of an eye, I not only had lost my health and mobility at a young age, but had no more money, no career, no work visa, my medical aid didn’t extend my contract, and I was somewhere down in Africa.
I went through the darkest days of my life. But at the same time, I was strongly motivated to get out of this state. I visualized and believed it so much and threw everything I had into it, that – after one osteopathic treatment to the head and spine – all of a sudden my brain started working again, then my nervous system followed, and then I started to heal. Until today we don’t know why exactly I am healing so quickly, but considering the nature of my injuries, it probably is a world record!
Now that the worst is over, I am more determined than ever to continue my journey in sports. As this article is published, I will be toeing my first start line of the year to race a 7-day stage race from Nice to Geneva with approximately 900km and 22,000m of altitude, only weeks after my foot-infection and complications.
My biggest dream is still ahead of me: to successfully complete the ETU European Long Distance Triathlon Championships in September, as part of Challenge Almere-Amsterdam. It is a mad project and supposedly impossible. And that’s what I like about it! Given some of my post-accident experiences, I don’t believe in a set reality anymore, particularly not if it’s based on statistics.
So, I’ll just do my thing. I’ll #LivBeyond, follow my heart, and to do exactly as I please… in order to define… what’s really possible.
If you’re keen to join and follow my crazy story, stay tuned to Liv Cycling on social media as well as my outlets on Instagram and Facebook. Hope you enjoy the ride!