Monday, 27 July 2015

Ironman UK 2015 - A different perspective

I have been to see Ironman UK twice before - but this time I was lucky enough to see a different side of this amazing event.

The previous occasions had been focused on an athlete I was supporting who was capable of posting a good time and when his race was done it was time go. (or go to the hospital but that's a different story.....) And I didn't know what I was missing. Don't get me wrong - I had been fortunate enough to watch the pros and top age groupers race at the sharp end but there was a more humbling and emotional experience waiting for me as the hours ticked by.

What you need to understand about Ironman is that its a true feat of human endurance and arguably the hardest one day event on the planet. No disrespect to people who do long bike sportives or run a marathon - this is different gravy and takes long term dedication and sacrifice to train to a level to have even a chance of finishing within the time limit. And without cast iron will to pull you through when the inevitable dark times arrive then you in for a whole world of mental and physical pain and the heartache of your dream being shattered.

So I was here again, in familiar territory but I had 2 focal points for the day. Firstly I was again following my good friend and aspiring Ironman athlete, John Mcavoy, who was geared up to post a blistering time and challenge the front runners. But I also had another good friend, Darren Davis, competing in his first Ironman race and he was an unknown quantity with regards to his potential performance.

Anyway, the reason for this post is actually nothing to do with them as I was confident that John would be in the game and I knew Darren would finish - so in this respect I could enjoy the moment, give them encouragement and wait to see them succeed. However as Darrens race extended in to the early hours of the evening I witnessed scenes that will live with me forever.

During the day it is not unusual to see people vomiting at the side of the road, struggling to even jog and suffering more than us mere mortals can imagine. But they are still moving forwards and are in control. But as the sun goes down and the crowds thin out things start to change. The smiles disappear, the pace subsides and people cast long, lonely shadows as they realise they could be close to failure. A year or more of training, untold hours pushing yourself to the edge of human endurance and all for a DNF (Did Not Finish).

I wasn't prepared for this harrowing spectacle and I actually felt helpless and isolated behind the cold, metal barriers. You could see the super human effort being expended to get to the finish line but for some there was no happy ending, no rapturous applause and no shiny medal to hang around their weary necks.

But that's not the point.

I watched in awe of these ordinary people attempting an extraordinary thing. They had stepped way outside their comfort zone and were willing to lay themselves bare and challenge themselves in a way that most of us won't even dare to think about. For that one day they learn more about themselves and their limits than most people learn in a lifetime. For that they deserve utter respect.

So I suppose the final question is what are you doing to learn about yourself, push your own limits and be the best you can be? I think its a question most of us leave unanswered.