Despite suffering a broken knee and hip, Cindy Williams, 53, has competed in 100 triathlons and running events, placing in the top three in 50 of them. CLIFF GILL
BY CLIFF GILL Tribune correspondent
Published: June 29, 2013
Updated: June 30, 2013 at 12:50 AM
BAYONET POINT - Age and injuries often force athletes to slow down or give up competing altogether. Not Cindy Williams. Despite suffering a broken knee in 2006 and a broken hip in 2011, Williams, 53, is still determined to participate in triathlons, mini-marathons and 5Ks. In the last five years, the New Jersey native has competed in 100 triathlons and running events, placing in the top three in 50 of them. "Growing up, I was the most unathletic person you could ever imagine," Williams said. "I was the worst athlete on earth. Playing softball, I couldn't hit the ball to save my life." One of the few physical activities Williams enjoyed was bike riding. After her two sons were born, Williams would secure a child in an attachable seat and take long rides. When her younger son joined a swim team at Veterans Park in Hudson, she decided to use that time to swim laps.
"After one lap, I thought I was going to die," Williams said. "After a while, though, I began to like swimming laps. I learned how to breathe right and how to kick. I watched how the little kids did flip turns and started doing them. Soon, I was doing 50 laps, then 100, then 150." Williams joined a cycling group and biked 25-50 miles each weekend. A Bonati Spine Institute co-worker, Dr. Agnes Green, approached her about competing in a team triathlon in Pinellas County. "I learned I had a competitive drive," Williams said. "I enjoyed competing in mini-triathlons. Since I had never run in my life, I knew I needed to improve my running skills. In my first 5K race, I was shocked that I won first place in my age group." Williams says breathing during a swim differs from breathing during a run, blowing air through the mouth and out through the nose, as opposed to the opposite while running. It was difficult for her to transition from swimming to running, However, in Williams' first full-length triathlon in St. Petersburg in April 2009, she captured first place in her age group. Twice each month, Williams competes in either a triathlon or a running event, as they've become important parts of her life. On Feb. 1, 2011, she suffered a major setback when she broke her left hip. A rod was inserted into her thigh, attached by a screw at her knee and a nail at her hip. Yet, Williams was walking the following day. Two weeks after the injury, she walked the entire Starkey Park 5K Challenge. Seven weeks later, she competed in a 5K run in Clearwater. Now, Williams actively motivates others to exercise and compete. "We're supposed to help and inspire others to do something they've never done before," Williams said. "Everything that has happened since my broken hip is a blessing because I didn't think I'd ever do it again. Exercise is something you enjoy. If I don't run, swim or bike for a few days, I miss it." Friend and fellow distance runner, Kim Stinedurf of Holiday, has won numerous awards and is impressed with Williams' achievements. "I've known Cindy for 22 years," Stinedurf said. "She is a very strong, courageous, driven woman who is beautiful on the inside and out. She has pulled herself and her sons through some very tough situations and has always persevered. She is a very special woman that I look up to." Correspondent Cliff Gill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @ReporterCliff.