Last night, a group of TriGirls and some spouses (pardon me, man-candy) attended a special screening of the movie "The Spirit of the Marathon" that chronicles the journey of 6 athletes in their preparation for the 2006 Chicago Marathon. Two of them were elite, world-ranked runners, the rest ranged from Boston-qualifiers to novices just hoping to finish the distance. It was a very well-made documentary, inspirational in that it showed how marathon is such a unique event--one that is not just reserved for the gifted athlete.
Triathlons are the same way--even those famed Ironman events are open to anyone, from elite to joe-blow athletes, willing to put in the training and attempt the distance. Before I started triathlons in 2004, I assumed those events were for reserved for truly "serious" athletes, people that ate, slept, and breathed their sport. Over the past four years, the races I've participated in have included some rare athletic talent, but I'd say the great majority of racers were people like me, just out there to have fun and do their best.
Before 2004, it never occured to me that I could complete a triathlon or marathon--just signing up was a daunting thought. I considered myself in decent shape--I attended the occasional aerobics or body-shaping class, or spent the odd 30 minutes on an elliptical or stair-master machine. But my dear friend Heidi, herself a triathlete, put it in perspective for me, blatantly stating that my cholesterol level of 203 was not healthy and, oh by the way, my ass was getting fat. (My husband and I now refer to it as my frump-mom period.) Another friend in Richmond had finished a sprint tri the year before, so I latched on to the "if she can do it, so can I" mentality and signed up. Luckily for me, I was able to join a great training group and that summer finished my first sprint. One tri was all it took--I had so much fun during my first race, I couldn't imagine just stopping there.
Some of the things I love the most about my sport are the camaraderie of the transition area pre-race (minus the rare schmuck who takes up more than his fair share of space along the bike rack); the way total strangers greet each-other along the course with a "looking strong," "good job," "way to go;" how may pass the 20-something year old in front of you, only to get passed by the 60-year old behind you; and finally how everyone cheers the loudest for the last person into the finish chute (God knows it may be you one day!)