More Than a Race

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.

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About Ann Brennan

Ann Brennan is first and foremost a mom of three beautiful children. She is the managing editor of Beyond Limits Magazine and the creator of Ann’s Running Commentary. In 2012, Ann took Ann’s Running Commentary to new levels – first with a segment on the RunRunLive Podcast, chronicling her journey to her first Ironman and second, with a new channel on YouTube. Currently Ann is working on a non-fiction book series and working hard every day to remind people to get up, get active and get out there.
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9 Responses to More Than a Race

  1. Pamela says:

    This may be my favorite piece of yours of all time. Perfect Ann. Perfectly said. I’m a little teary :)

  2. Leslie Holliday says:

    At 48, I have just ecscaped an abusive relationship of one year and
    Was feeling pretty down on myself thanks to all I’ve been through.
    I decided to lace up my running shoes again thanks to reading your story
    It helped me remember the feel of running, and cycling and swimming.
    It has been so long since I’ve done something so good for my self
    And my poor battered soul. Thank you for taking the time to write and
    Remind me of the joys of running.
    Sincerely, Leslie Holliday – Florida

  3. Inspiring post Ann, well done. Great to see the motivation this race is bringing you, and important to be able to differentiate among races to really bring the passion when it’s the right time.

  4. Ann Brennan says:

    This made my day. Thanks so much for commenting. I am so happy you are being good to yourself and that you found something motivating in my words. Good luck out there.

  5. Ann Brennan says:

    Thanks Greg. I am having fun. Still terribly nervous but ready to make it happen.

  6. Bill Roddy (@billroddy) says:

    Wow! What an inspiring post! It’s great that you are closing in on a goal set 30 years ago. I, for one, will be following. Best of luck with the rest of your training.

  7. Ara says:

    When is your race? It sounds like you’re going to kick some serious butt in this Ironman. I’m so happy for you!

  8. Hi Ann! One of your Twitter followers. Love, love, love the post! Was chuckling at the laundry quandry and the 9:00 bedtime – I’m with you! Thanks for a great read! Nice to “meet you :)

  9. Ron Clark says:

    Hello! I am a twitter follower and clicked on your article. Thank you. So many of us feel that way about different Triathlons we do, “More than a race.” Thanks for a great article.

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