The Person Within

Did you ever stop and wonder what sets triathletes apart from other athletes? Or what sets them apart from the rest of society in general for that matter? I think about it all the time. There is something about this sport that fosters an incredible sense of brotherhood and camaraderie unlike any other. Something that is almost viral and infectious in nature. I’m a little unclear if it’s that individuals with particular personality traits are drawn to the sport of triathlon, or if the sport of triathlon does such a great job of promoting that environment that it further defines the individual. Probably a little of both but it makes for a pretty cool community of kindred spirits.

I’ve seen my share of examples of this over the years. I’ve witnessed guys giving up spare tubes before the start of a race. During one race in particular, a friend of mine missed an iron distance PR by 3 minutes, because he spent 10 minutes helping out a stranger struggling with a flat. And they were in the same age group! Days before a big race, how many times have we seen veteran athletes driving around the bike course in cars explaining each little turn and hill to nervous and apprehensive rookies? And how often have we seen chalk inscribed messages of inspiration along race courses meant to motivate the very same people that we are competing against? These are all examples of things we do without giving any second thought. We help out our brothers. We do whatever we can to help them have a good race and a more memorable and positive experience. Even if that means that their finish time ends up better than our own. We want everyone in this family to be successful.

When I think about all of the people that I have met as a result of this zany sport, I’m amazed at how prevalent this invisible thread or common link is that bonds us. The international community at large needs to take a few lessons from triathletes. I have very vivid memories of folks from various discussion forums offering advice, suggestions, and compassion for me as I prepared for my first iron distance race. And some of those same individuals were even more instrumental during race week as they took me under their wing and made sure that I wasn’t overlooking anything and that I had screwed by head on right.

These people were essentially strangers. Brought together only by our passion for the sport, but heavily invested in one another’s success. In most cases I couldn’t even tell you the names of their spouses or what they did for a living. But that never mattered. They were willing to drop what they were doing to help out an iron virgin. To be able to reflect back on a race and have lasting memories of individuals is icing on top of that finisher’s medal or certificate. And a treasure that will last much longer than the finisher’s tee shirt! You simply won’t find this kind interaction among most athletes in other sports.

So, let’s all do our part to keep the good karma alive and regenerating. Let’s all lend a helping hand or a shoulder whenever possible. Don’t forget to thank the volunteers who are sacrificing their time and energy to help you realize your dreams. Celebrate the fact that you have chosen to surround yourself with an amazingly fine yet rare group of positive individuals.

Take a look around before the start of a race and count your blessings and remind yourself of how fortunate you are to have the courage and ambition to even be there. And lastly, no matter what the outcome is, be proud of your accomplishments for what they mean to you, not how they may stack up against someone else. And should you have a “bad day”, make a note, learn a lesson. And move on.

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