Athlete Name: Kate Cornelius
Hometown: Portland, OR
Tell us a little about yourself
I was born in Kansas City, Kansas, but moved around every couple of years for the first 22 years of my life and have been in Portland, OR for the last nearly six years, where I rediscovered my love of running. I grew up playing every sport available in school (and was that girl who LOVED gym class – luckily, we had gym twice a week for all four years of high school in my district!) from swim team to soccer to cross country. I was athlete of the year in grade 8, but in my later years of high school and in college, I took a break from organized sports, preferring to swim laps or spend solitary time in the gym. When I moved to Portland, a friend encouraged me to join a local run club, which I now co-lead and where I’ve met my closest friends. I started racing the second summer I lived in Portland – 5Ks and the occasional 10K. I ran my first half marathon in 2014 and was hooked – I’ve run too many half marathons to count at this point, plus two road marathons (the most recent being the Chicago Marathon this year!) and four trail ultra-marathons (any distance longer than a marathon). I’ve also raced over a dozen sprint and Olympic distance triathlons.
I was diagnosed with CF at three months old. I was lucky enough to grow up without major medical intervention (my first time being admitted to the hospital for a tune-up outside of surgeries/procedures was just this year!) and a family who never treated me differently because of my CF. Many of my friends and peers never knew about my CF – I was very selective with who I told for years – and they only ever knew the basics. I was afraid of being treated differently, pitied, or doubted. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 and moved to Portland in early 2013, where I started care at the CF center at OHSU. With their support, I took full control and responsibility for my health, began to cautiously explore the expansive online CF community, and started to think about sharing my story. I had a feeling I might be able to do some good through fundraising or showing families of younger CFers what I’d been able to accomplish. When I learned about Team Boomer and the opportunity to run the Chicago Marathon to raise money for the Boomer Esiason Foundation, I knew it was time to jump in and connect with the community.
I’m now sharing that I have CF publicly (I mean, I’m not using a megaphone or anything, but…) and was extremely proud to wear the Team Boomer uniform in the Chicago Marathon after raising $2500 for the Foundation. My friends and coworkers (I full-time work for an amazing Swiss running shoe brand called On as a Happiness Deliverer – no joke, that’s my real title! – in our North American HQ) have been SO supportive and positive. I completed my 200Hr RYT Yoga Teacher Training this summer despite a set back where I had to be hospitalized – my CF may slow me down, but it will not stop me.
“There's no feeling in the world like a runner's high - or the glorious exhaustion after a sweaty boot camp or yoga class. "
Tell us what motivates you the most.
I’m very competitive with myself – I’m always looking to challenge myself with new goals. I run and compete for and against myself always with the first goal being to cross the finish line with a smile (though I admit sometimes it’s more of a grimace!). I’m very goal-oriented, so I try to set goals for my health, personal and professional life, and sports. Admittedly, I’m also motivated to prove people wrong – telling me I (as someone with CF, as a woman, as a millennial, etc.) can’t do something is the surest way to guarantee I make it happen!
Why do you exercise?
Exercise has been the saving grace for both my mental and physical health. I run, practice yoga, snowboard, bike, swim, paddleboard, and more to build my physical strength and improve my physical health, but also to fight anxiety and depression I’ve dealt with my whole life. My world makes more sense when I view myself as an athlete and commit to regular activity. There’s no feeling in the world like a runner’s high – or the glorious exhaustion after a sweaty boot camp or yoga class.
Who is your role model?
Lisa Bentley has been my hero since I met her in grade seven at my school’s athletic awards dinner where she was the keynote speaker. She’s a champion IRONMAN athlete (who has raced the World Championships in Kona 11 times and placed in the top 10 six times!) from Canada who has CF – and is the reason I started racing triathlon and running in the first place. She’s an incredibly talented athlete, even without considering that she has CF – her determination has always motivated me. Lisa is a testament to the power of exercise for CFers. (https://www.lisabentley.com/)