Interview with Sole Inspirer - Michelle (Shelly) Grady


SI | Shelly. RYPE Founder, long time IRONMAN Finisher. Were you always an athlete?

Shelly | I never have considered myself an athlete. I did play team sports in high school: basketball, volleyball and softball. Additionally, I swam competitively for our neighborhood pool and swim club for about 10 summers. After high school, the only real athletic thing I did was....actually nothing. LOL

SI | So when did you become interested in triathlons?

Shelly | Well, it’s interesting how I came to do my first triathlon, and subsequently what led to me starting RYPE.  As a kid, I remember watching Wide World of Sports (ABC) with my dad, and they were covering the IRONMAN World Championship. It caught my attention because they focused more on regular people doing the race over the professional athletes...and their stories were very moving to me. I think I may have been about 12 or 13 at the time. Once the race was over, I told my father that I was going to do that race one day! quickly as I said it, I forgot about it.

SI | So if you forgot about it, how did it resurface?

Shelly | I relocated to Charlotte, NC in 2001. Somehow I received an email advertising a training program for a triathlon. I was new to the city, vaguely remembered my interest as a young teenager, so I decided to sign up. We were training for Tri Latta in 2003, an open water, sprint distance triathlon. When I crossed the finish line of that race, the most overwhelming sense of empowerment washed over me. It was super intense, and made me feel like I could do whatever I put my mind to doing!! The feeling transcended the was across the board. But in that same moment, I looked around and did not see one other face that looked like mine. I was hooked because I was chasing that feeling, and also I wanted to change the landscape of the sport.

SI | Tell us more about the RYPE organization.

Shelly | After continuing to race, and falling more and more in love with the sport, I would always think back to the first race. I would remember how proud I was, but also how disappointed I was that there were not others like me participating in the sport. It was a combination of the pride and empowerment plus the disappointed feeling of not seeing others that looked like me that led to the founding of RYPE (Realizing Your Potential Everyday) in 2007. Wanting to share the feeling of empowerment and accomplishment with faces that look like mine; and wanting to provide a network and programs to inspire, educate and support women of color in training for and competing in the sport of triathlon. We provide education on all things triathlon, including nutrition, gear and the mental aspect of the sport; comprehensive training plans that promote healthy habits; and a fun and nurturing environment. We are excited about our future as we develop programs to begin introducing the sport to young black women, providing another scholarship source as collegiate teams focus on diversification.

SI | Can you provide some contact information on RYPE for our readers please.

Shelly | or go to


SI | When did you complete your first IRONMAN and how many have you raced in and completed since then?

Shelly | I competed in IRONMAN Florida in November of 2010. Since then, I have only done one other 140.6 (Louisville), however I was a DNF.

SI | I’m sorry to hear about your DNF.  As women of color, we are often labeled as non-athletic for worry of our hair and/or image. What made you decide to become an athlete and compete in something as huge as IRONMAN?

Shelly | I was growing tired of the narrative that we had the highest obesity rate, that we could not swim, and that our vanity trumped our desire to be healthy. My triathlon journey started off more about me doing something that others had not and proving the narrative wrong...but then became more about being the face that other women of color see participating in the sport, thus providing validation that they can too.

SI | What was the best and worst advice you’ve ever received as an athlete?

Shelly | Best advice: Relax, trust your training and HAVE FUN!! I use these words regularly now. Worst advice: to get as many yards/meters in swimming as possible....the more you swim the better you will be. While that sounds like it is good advice, it’s misleading. Swim is you should focus more on drills and perfecting that technique.

SI | What would you say is the secret to your athletic success through the years?

Shelly | Having fun with it! And run YOUR race, not someone else's. One of the things that I love about this sport is that "success" is defined by your own standards. Success for you may be to finish in a certain amount of time, success for me may simply be to finish. You do you...I do me, and we are ALL successful!

SI | Would you like to share any words of wisdom with women who may eventually want to compete in races like IRONMAN?

Shelly | If you want to do it, then just do it. Find a buddy to train with....everything is more fun with a buddy!! One thing that has changed over the years, is the number of women and minorities participating in triathlons, including IRONMAN 140.6. So finding a partner to train with isn't as hard as it used to be. Make sure that you treat nutrition and rest just as you do the training plan...they are equally, if not more important. Lastly, enjoy the moments...even the hard shit! It makes the finish line experience so monumental when you took the time to mentally document your journey.

SI | Great advice!  Is there another IRONMAN race in you?

Shelly | Absolutely!

SI | Thank you Shelly for sharing your IRONMAN journey!

Sole InspirersKimberly Hall