by Ann Brennan
There is a lot of head shaking around me these days. My kids shake their heads when I head to bed at nine because I am so tired after a big training day. My in-laws shake their heads at the idea that I would willingly jump into a jellyfish infested body of water and swim over two miles while being thrashed about by 1500 other swimmers. My husband shakes his head at the ever-growing pile of laundry, left there because it was either my long run or laundry and the long run won out. And even my running friends shake their heads as I explain that I gave up booze as part of the training regime.
“It’s just a race,” their shaking heads say, “Why put yourself through all of this? What do you have to gain?”
And I get it. I have raced for twenty years. Although, I do use the term race loosely. I have run in road races for twenty years. I have completed everything from one-mile track runs to a fifty miler. I have even completed a handful of triathlons but I don’t really race and even now, as I prepare for the Beach to Battleship Ironman Distance triathlon, I know that I won’t be racing anybody but myself.
But I will be racing myself because this race is more than just another race. For me, this race has been a journey. A journey that started thirty years ago, when, as a thirteen year old I sat on the arm of my father’s Lazy-boy and watched Julie Moss crawl across the finish line of the Hawaiian Ironman.
I was not a particularly athletic or graceful girl. I had played softball but only half-heartedly and only for one season. I roller-skated every weekend but only because there was music and friends and, truth be told, a snack bar. And although I was a cheerleader I freely admit that I wasn’t that kind of cheerleader. I wasn’t particularly fit. I couldn’t complete astounding gymnastic feats. The only thing I had going for me was that I was vertically challenged and was not afraid to be on the top of any pyramid.
Even so, I watched Julie Moss crawl across that finish line and I knew I had to do that. I had to complete an Ironman. Deciding was the first step on my journey. It took ten years before I took the next step and had I not just married the love of my life and realized the danger being obese really was, I might not have taken it then. But I did. Actually, we did. Together we ran our first mile, signed up for our first race and began training in the brutal North Carolina summer.
Since that time every step I have taken has brought me closer to my goal destination. Over twenty years I have learned to love running, biking and swimming. I have embraced my inner child as I zoomed down a hill at breakneck speed on my bike, picked off the runners in front of me one by one to edge just a little closer to the middle of the pack and even learned to enjoy being in the midst of a pack of anxiety crazed swimmers in the open water.
But the closer I get to the final destination, the more important the goal has become to me. It isn’t just another race. It is the culmination of years of hope, training, and frustrations.
This ironman represents more than any race has before. If I can take that little seed of hope that was planted when I was thirteen years old and carry it through to the finish line at Beach to Battleship it says something about me. Whether it says something to anybody else isn’t the point. It says something to me. It says that I can. I can push through. I can keep going. It may have taken thirty years but I can follow through.