By MSF Field Coordinator Kerri Kelly

There’s a mental toughness to training for an IRONMAN triathlon that has truly helped me as a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) field coordinator on missions in Chad, Ethiopia, Libya, South Sudan, Uganda, and Georgia.

I would know. I worked hard to complete 15 marathons, two 50K trail races, two 50 mile races, two half IRONMAN distance races and a full IRONMAN over five years. I cannot believe that it was 10 years ago that I did IRONMAN USA in gorgeous Lake Placid, NY.

The demands of training for these events was great experience for my current job as a field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. I deal with some very complex challenges in the field, which require the ability to break down problems into achievable tasks. Just like training for a triathlon – it all starts with one step out the door.

Staying fit while in the field demands a focused presence in each moment. I run when I am on missions if the security situation allows for it. Otherwise, you can do yoga and jump rope anywhere. The ability to work out helps me to relax and process all of the difficulties we face while working far from home. It’s where I find a peaceful haven from a sometimes challenging time helping people trapped in crisis. Living in the moment to push through that next mile makes me feel more alive. Each day training builds on the previous day to create a pattern of commitment towards my goal of helping others and challenging myself.

How do I stay in shape while in remote war ravaged areas? I fit in workouts when and how I can. I was on a Doctors Without Borders mission in Renk, South Sudan in 2012, the hottest place I have ever been. One day it was 129 degrees—I’m not joking. Due to the security situation, we could only run in pairs during daylight hours. One of the first days there, I was running with my teammate and we ran farther than usual and lost our bearings. Standing at the crossroads of two dirt roads with zero landmarks, we clearly looked lost. Some “mamas” pointed us back toward the hospital that we were working in. Moms are moms no matter where you are in the world.

I am excited that this year, for the first time, Doctors Without Borders has charity entries in the 2014 IRONMAN Boulder. Our team includes athletes who support the lifesaving work of Doctors Without Borders, together with people like me who have worked with Doctors Without Borders. All the funds raised by this team make it possible for our teams in the field to immunize children against deadly diseases, bring clean water and sanitation to remote villages, respond to disasters like typhoons and earthquakes, and deliver emergency medical care in more than 70 countries.

You can be part of this lifesaving team, too. We’ve still got room for you to join us in Boulder this August.

Learn more about Team Doctors Without Borders and IRONMAN Boulder by contacting Jocelyn Scherr at

Kerri Kelly has been a field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders since 2008, serving in missions in Chad, Ethiopia, Libya, South Sudan, Uganda, and Georgia. A New York University graduate, Kerri was an executive with Bear Stearns prior to joining Doctors Without Borders. Field Coordinators for Doctors Without Borders are responsible for all logistical issues for field teams including security, team oversight, water supplies, structure building and maintenance, radios, cars, surgical equipment, and food shipments.