Physical Endurance Breeds Resilience

What do a triathlon and All Quiet on the Western Front have in common? Lesley Paterson—and her perseverance, stamina, and resilience.


[00:00:00] Stephen Calabria: From the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. This is Road to Resilience, a podcast about facing adversity. I'm Stephen Calabria.

[00:00:10] On this episode, we welcome Lesley Paterson, a five-time world champion triathlete, as well as an actor and Oscar-nominated screenwriter. Leslie toiled in the film industry for years, trying for over a decade to make a film adaptation of the classic novel All Quiet on the Western Front.

[00:00:28] Leslie had attempted to finance the film's production by running and winning triathlons. Even when she was successful, the process pushed Leslie to her physical and psychological limits. It culminated in one make or break triathlon, where Leslie had to fight through a serious injury to even compete. And in the process showed the true meaning of grit.

[00:00:49] From her home in Los Angeles, we're pleased the great Lesley Paterson on the show.

[00:00:55] Lesley Paterson, welcome to Road to Resilience.

[00:00:58] Lesley Paterson: Hello, it's great to meet you.

[00:01:00] Stephen Calabria: Great to meet you. So your life is so incredible that if it was being pitched in a writer's room, it'd probably be rejected for being so implausible that it borders on ridiculous. To kick us off, you're something of a lifelong triathlete. What first prompted your interest in running triathlons?

[00:01:19] Lesley Paterson: Yeah. Do you know, I've always been an athlete since I came out of the womb and my mother will attest to that. I used to race around the local grass, the local square, the local park, you know, very competitive. So I think it's been in my blood from a young age.

[00:01:34] I love movement. I've got a lot of energy. So I jumped into the sport of rugby when I was very young. I was only seven years old. And I played as the only girl in an all-boys team. And in fact, I was the only girl in the whole of Scotland at the time. This was in the eighties, of course, a little bit different now.

[00:01:48] And my niece now plays, in an, an all-boys team. But, yeah, so I think that that built a lot of resiliency from early on, right? I was walking on the pitch, people were laughing and joking and pointing, and I committed to what it was I loved about the sport. So yeah, it started there. And then, you know, I was no longer allowed to play with boys and jumped into the weird and wonderful sport of triathlon.

[00:02:12] Stephen Calabria: Okay. And why triathlons specifically though? What does the whole process evoke in you that say bicycling or archery doesn't?

[00:02:21] Lesley Paterson: Right. So, you know, triathlon is really curious, right? It's swimming, biking and running. And I think that through those three different sports, the way that your body moves gives me this kinesthetic pleasure.

[00:02:34] I'm a dancer. I was a dancer and have done that for a long time. So my expression of self comes through movement and the movement is so unique in each sport that it's, I don't know, it just kind of, like I, I loved it. I, I still do. And my dad was into triathlon and thought it would be fun for me to give it a go.

[00:02:56] And I jumped into a local team. I think so many reasons why you get into something is, you know, what are your parents do? What are the facilities like where you live? And we had a great club that was just a big community center.

[00:03:07] And, yeah, so I kind of dived in that and was pretty good, pretty quick. And so that just propelled the whole vision of where I wanted to go with it.

[00:03:15] Stephen Calabria: There's a story you've told about competing in your first XTERRA race in 2008 in Temecula, California, where you were in the lead, but you bonked. Could you explain what bonking is and what it feels like and what ultimately happened there?

[00:03:31] Lesley Paterson: Absolutely. So, well, let's go back to that first question. XTERRA is a form of triathlon. So just like in running, for instance, you have lots of different disciplines. You have the 10k, the 5k, the marathon. It's the same in triathlon.


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