GREENWICH, Conn. — Greenwich’s Katha Diddel-Warren reached the podium in the Westchester Triathlon for the fifth straight year Sept. 23. This year’s victory in her age group, however, was far and away her most meaningful.
Diddel-Warren won her age group in 2:54:48, nearly six minutes ahead of her closest challenger. More significantly, the race proved she has recovered from a bizarre medical ordeal earlier this year that doctors said would end her athletic career.
“I’ve been lucky,’’ Diddel-Warren said. “I had a tough year with a lot of health issues. I was very happy to have won.”
Diddel-Warren also won her age group at Westchester last year. A few months later, however, she developed a complex health situation, which she declined to disclose, that threatened her career as an endurance athlete. “Doctors said you’ll never be doing these sports ever again,’’ Diddel-Warren said. “You won’t be able to ride a bike, you won’t be able to swim. The only thing you might be able to do is run. With all of that, I ended up getting lucky and having a good year.”
Her comeback began in the Boston Marathon. With little training and just two weeks after her final surgery, Diddel-Warren finished in 4:36:02. The weather was brutally hot, and her time was far from her best. Given the circumstances, however, navigating the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton, Mass., to Boston was a huge accomplishment.
“Doctors didn’t want me to run Boston,’’ Diddel-Warren said. “Many don’t think marathons are good for you, anyway. They were relieved after I finished and thrilled. I wanted to do it. How can you not want to run Boston? It was amazing to finish. It was almost like it was on the wings of angels.”
Diddel-Warren ran the race with a woman she met on the course and finished with her son running alongside her. “There was all this good karma going on,’’ she said. “My son never comes to watch my races. He was sprinting next to me at the finish. It was like something was there helping me.”
The race in Boston was only the beginning. In June, Diddel-Warren finished third in her age group at the Escape From Alcatraz triathlon, an event that includes many of the top triathletes in the world. At the U.S.A. Triathlon Age Group Nationals in August, Diddel-Warren finished 24th in the Olympic distance event.
She finished second in her age group in the Falmouth Road Race (she had won her division every year since 1997), won her age group in the Harryman Triathlon in New York and will race in the World Triathlon Championships in New Zealand later this month. She has been ranked in the Top 100 in her age group in the United States for several years.
Diddel-Warren started competing in triathlons six years ago and has been a long-time runner and cyclist. She played tennis and squash in college but has been an endurance athlete ever since. She is a member of the Greenwich Triathlon Club and the cycling team for Targetraining.
The past year has been a roller-coaster of emotions, and the Westchester victory represented her zenith. It gets her back in the Alcatraz race next year, and further distances herself from the painful memory of a winter filled with health problems.
“I love the outdoors,’’ Diddel-Warren said. “And I really love the community that you meet through marathons and triathlons. There is a lot of joy in the sport, and it’s nice to wake up each day and know that you have training to do. I can’t think of a better way to start the day.”