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Pedaling My Way to Success as a Champion Cyclist With Epilepsy

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My name is Marion Clignet. At the age of 22, I discovered I had epilepsy and was told I wouldn’t be allowed to drive for a year. We had to find the right treatment that would allow me to live seizure-free. I was a tad frustrated by this change and by the way the doctors told me to keep my epilepsy a secret because it was very taboo, so I decided to do just the opposite. I took up a job as a strength and conditioning coach 30 km from my house and bought a bike to get there and back. One thing led to another. I battled with neurologists to find the right medications with the least number of side effects, and I fought hard to push myself forward and not get caught up in feeling sorry for myself because of this sudden change. I fought so hard that I rode to the following cycling victories:

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U.S. National Team Time Trial Champion
U.S. National Road Silver Medalist

I qualified for the World Championships to represent the USA in 1990, but they told me they wouldn’t take me because I had epilepsy and was “a risk to the team.” I’ve never been one to bow down to “authority,” so since I was born of French parents, I finished the 1990 season in France. From there, I turned another chapter in my cycling career and raced for France, winning the following races:

10 x French National Road, Track and Time Trial Champion
6 x World Pursuit, Team Time Trial, and Points Race Champion
2 x Olympic Silver Medalist (Atlanta and Sydney)
World record holder from 1996-2000 (3000 m pursuit)
Over 350 victories including stage wins in the Tour de France, Giro Feminin, etc.
French Long Distance Duathlon Champion
Sub 3-Hour Marathon (2’58 Paris 2013)
Trail and mountain running races

I stopped racing bikes in 2003 and began coaching. My desire to share my knowledge — good, bad and ugly — has taken me from coaching regional men to a Tour de France men’s team as well as amateur and elite women. To nourish my addiction to endorphin-producing sports (don’t worry, they’re legal!) I took up running and after a few years of pounding, injuring myself trying to get paces right, trying all sorts of shoes, I’m at long last moving ahead! From running 10 km to cross country to marathons, mountains and trails I’ve tried about everything and now I’m back to riding bikes!

Since I was diagnosed with epilepsy I have spoken around the globe, first in the United States as a spokesperson for the Epilepsy Foundation of America, appearing on “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show.” When I moved to France, I continued as a spokesperson for the French Foundation for Research on Epilepsy, appearing on “Des Racines et des Ailes” amongst others, and speaking to groups around the country as well as around the world in China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Prague, Venice and more.

This year I organized the 12th annual La Marion Clignet Ride for Epilepsy in Lisle Jourdain to raise money to build a gym for children with epilepsy and autism. Distances ranged from 35 km to 124 km.

In 2012 I created BAM, Body and Mind Coaching with my business partner and together we coach large and small corporations, helping people realize their potential using sports, nutrition and personal development.

I dare you to transform your obstacles into opportunities. I dare you to realize your potential. I dare you to dare yourself!

Learn more about Marion on her website.

Getty image by DimaMorgan12.

Originally published: November 4, 2019
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