Roughly a week ago we were gearing up for one of the most grueling races on earth. Ok- maybe I wasn’t QUITE gearing up, but I was at least trying to support my little brother who was. Around a month and a half ago Colin decided to “last minute” participate in an Ironman race in Kentucky because there were still spots open. I chose not to go because he and his wife, Beth are doing one in a few weeks which I will be attending, and I thought it would be too much. Well, my brother kicked some serious butt and got first in his age group and won the Ironman prize of a spot in the World Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii that was held last Saturday. At the moment he got in I guess I forgot that I thought 3 days in Kentucky was too much, and I booked a ticket to Kona.
It was quite a ride.
Ok- for those of you not “in the know”, an Ironman race is the following: 2.4 mile swim (Kona was in the ocean), 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run (aka: marathon). Crazy, huh?
I think it’s even crazier when there are people that you love dearly that take part in something like this. I often wonder how he can biologically be related to me, or what it is inside of him that makes him want to do something like this, and then there are moments where all I can think is, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING, COLIN?”
I mean, really, doing an Ironman is NOT healthy for you. An Ironman will be the first to tell you this. Yes, the good workouts, the healthy eating, and all in all healthy living is a very positive side effect of training for an Ironman, but the race itself? Ya, not so much.
Watching him, watching all of these people do this race, well, it made me think. What does it take? To do this race, not just an Ironman, but THE Ironman Championship race in Kona, Hawaii, what does it take to get here? I’m not talking about the stuff that I listed above about being healthy and all that jazz, but what does it take???
I think about Colin’s journey. I am not going to tell it here because it is his story to tell. But my little brother has gone through plenty to get to this point. I think about the other people who finished the Ironman race on that day. I watched an 82-year-old man cross the finish line. Eighty-two. I saw the first ever finisher who had cerebral palsy cross the finish line. I watched a fireman who did the entire marathon in full gear. What does it take?
And then, then I saw the hardest thing of all.
You see, the Ironman has a cut off. 17 hours. So, at midnight whether you are 5 feet away or 5 miles away, if you do not cross that finish line by midnight, you are not, officially, an Ironman.
This happens. In every race, this happens.
As Colin, Beth and I were walking back to the main road to find a taxi back to the hotel, I witnessed something miraculous, heart-breaking, and mind-blowing. We saw a man, who was one leg short of two, running slowly, to his end goal.
He was one who did not make it.
But, he wasn’t giving up. Leg or no leg, time or no time, Ironman or no Ironman. This guy, whoever he was, was going to finish the race that he left for 17 hours and 10 minutes earlier. No matter what the “official” outcome may be.
What does it take?
I think though, the most amazing thing about that scene was that he was not alone. He had at least 7 or 8 family members, friends, or random strangers running along side of him. Not in front, not behind, but a line of people that took up almost the entire street. None of them seemed to care whether or not he made the deadline. All that seemed to matter at that moment, was that he didn’t finish it alone.
So, is that what it takes?
This year the Ironman theme centered around the athlete’s history. Something along the lines of ‘never forget where you came from and how you got there’. I can’t speak for all Ironman athletes but I can’t imagine many of them are able to do it alone. This parallels the human-life story. So much in our lives… things that makes us happy, things that makes us feel successful, and things that make us feel needed, requires others. Others support, others love, and most of all, for others just to be there. Watching that man run the final 500 feet of a 140-mile race reminded me of what it takes to weave your way though life. Although I will never finish an Ironman, I have my own races that I am running everyday. Struggles and difficulties that are hard to overcome, but they would be much harder if I didn’t have ‘my people’ running beside me. Not in front, and not behind. Watching the Ironmen and women finish, or not finish the race just confirmed that to succeed in life we need each other, to catch, to celebrate, but mostly to run beside.
So, what do you think it takes? Go out, take a little jog, and see if you can find out.