This is a big weekend in endurance sports.
We start on Saturday, with the Ironman World Championships in Kona. 2.4 mile swim, 112 on the bike…and then a marathon. The gun goes off at 7am. All athletes have until 9:20am to hit the first transition area (otherwise called “T1”) – miss that cutoff by a single second, and your day is over. Then the athletes hop on their bikes and crank out 112 miles out in the open Hawaiian sun, fighting the fierce Kona winds (which are known to knock grown men off their bikes). All athletes needs to hit the second transition area (“T2”) by 5:30pm. Again: miss the cutoff time by a single second, and your day is through. Once you make it through T2, you throw on your running shoes and begin your 26.2 run. By now your arms and back are tired from the swim, and your legs are burning from the bike. You also become aware of the final countdown: you have to cross the finish before midnight. 140.6 miles. 1,800 athletes, all of them absolute BEASTS.
Now here’s something cool that the athletes in Kona do that I wish other races around the world would embrace: there is a tradition that the male and female winners at Kona return to the finish line for the final hour of the event in order to cheer on the final athletes as they fulfill their dreams. The athletes that finish in the last hour may have their medal draped over their necks by the champion. Here’s another incredible fact about Kona: as the sun goes down and the night begins, the crowds don’t lessen. They get bigger. They get louder. The final hour is magical.
This is my unicorn. To cross the finish at Kona and have those magic words yelled over the loudspeaker: “Joseph Kolinsky, you are an Ironman!” by the announcer has been a dream of mine since I began following the sport in the late 1980’s. I’d watch this incredible race every year on ABC’s Wide World of Sports (and for those of you who have never heard that iconic theme song for this show, go and google it – trust me, it’;s worth the keystrokes), and see the level of pain the athletes were willing to go through in order to complete this event. I was absolutely blown away. I’ve been a fan ever since.
On Sunday, the Chicago Marathon takes place. Over 40,000 will run this one. The course is flat and fast, and extremely fun. I ran this one a couple of times, and it was 5 hours of bliss.
These events serve as an ongoing reminder: impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men. You can do anything you put your mind to. It doesn’t need to be a triathlon or a marathon – just choose a goal and work at it until to achieve it. And if someone tells you that what you are shooting for is impossible, just tell them “…maybe for you it is. Not for me.”