Why does CNN Newsroom weekend anchor Fredricka Whitfield train for triathlons at 10 p.m.?
This article originally published on Runner’s World.
When you work for a 24-hour news channel in a summer dominated by an epic presidential election and the Olympic Games , you find yourself doing things on an unconventional schedule.
But it isn’t just the pressures of her job that keep Whitfield on the road and in the water after dark. She’s the daughter of three-time Olympic gold medalist and National Track and Field Hall of Fame  middle-distance runner Mal Whitfield.
A member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the elder Whitfield was still an Air Force sergeant when, in the 1948 London Olympics, he became the first U.S. serviceman on active duty to win gold medals—in both the 800-meter and the 4×400 relay. He also competed in the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he picked up a bronze in the 400-meter, a gold in the 800-meter, and a silver in the 4×400. After he died last November , he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Now his daughter, who has been to the Olympics as a journalist—Atlanta in 1996 and Beijing in 2008—trains for triathlons while raising three kids and working weekends.
“I don’t think in my family we could avoid having an interest in sports,” she said. “It’s been ingrained in me since an early age. Just being athletic was part of the dynamic.”
Whitfield and her motherPhotograph courtesy of Fredricka Whitfield
Whitfield with her 82-year-old mother, Nola, at the 2014 Nautica Triathlon in Malibu, Florida.
Whitfield, like her father, was a middle-distance runner and hurdler in junior high and at Point Branch High School in Burtonsville, Maryland, where she grew up. She and her brother and sister all ran track, played tennis from an early age, “and we were swimming at a time when most kids were learning to walk,” she said.
Whitfield’s broadcast journalism career, however, was a series of sprints. It took her to local stations in Miami, Washington, Dallas, New Haven, and Charleston, South Carolina. Then she moved to NBC News and finally, CNN headquarters in Atlanta.
It was in 2005 that she returned to running, after she had her first child, a son. She found other women in the neighborhood to run with, usually before dawn.
“That really was the impetus to do it,” Whitfield said—“to really get myself back in shape, to feel strong again.”
After watching a triathlon on television, Whitfield got the bug. She decided to enter one race—the Peachtree City Sprint Triathlon in August 2006. A month later, she was suiting up for another. “I just loved the competitive nature of testing myself. And the triathlon was something I had wanted to do for years.”
Whitfield celebrated her 50th birthday last year at a triathlon. And she has twice competed in the Malibu Triathlon with CNN colleagues.
Whitfield with fellow CNN employees.Photograph courtesy of Fredricka Whitfield
Whitfield, center, at the 2014 Nautica Triathlon in Malibu with fellow CNN employees Ronnie Selig, left, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, right.
“I just made a commitment to myself that as long as I’m enjoying [this], I’ll keep doing it,” she said.
After she gave birth to fraternal twins in 2012, she started training late at night.
“The day is filled with work, and then when I get home I have to deal with the little people, as I call them. So only after everyone’s asleep can I concentrate on me,” she said.
In addition to running at night, Whitfield, now 51, swims while her kids cool off in the pool. Finding time to bike is harder; she manages two rides a week.
She hasn’t registered for a triathlon yet this year but continues to train with the Atlanta Triathlon Club. And when she does compete, Whitfield’s mostly in it to get to the finish line.
“I don’t get hung up with the times and how I stack up with everybody else,” Whitfield said. “My goal is to make sure I finish and give it my absolute best. My measure of achievement is really finishing.”
Still, she looks around at other participants and, if they look like they’re around her age, “I get a little bit more competitive—‘I can’t let that person beat me.’”
It runs in the family.