Yesterday I volunteered at Ironman Maryland to work the finish line and hand out medals. 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. The day started off with a disappointment as the trigods decided to shorten the swim for safety purposes... taking the 3800m swim to 3000m. Still a helluva long way but I think if I was doing this triathlon my mental state would've been like, "dang it... now I'm guaranteed to have to sign up for another so that I can complete the full swim distance."
The weather was a chilly 58 degrees as its high and upper 30s at its low. The day quickly turned into night. Temperatures dropped. This is what I remember seeing:
I saw a girl run broken to the finish line and as soon as she crossed the line she collapsed shaking and weak...actually I saw 100 people like that.
Countless people having to hold onto two 'catchers' who helped them clear the finish area because they didn't have another ounce to give.
I saw man and wife run thru the finish line holding hands and as they crossed he grabbed her around the waist and passionately kissed her. Awww! and yeck at the same time. (I mean, these people are saliva-ey, mucousey, sweaty and all things gross by the end of this race!)
I saw a guy from China with his flag. I saw a guy from Ecuador with his flag. I saw a girl with the American flag and I held it up off of the ground for her when she ran thru.
I saw identical twin sisters cross the finish line together.
My last medal I gave was to a 70 year old woman.
I saw fit and lean, I saw not as fit and lean... people who didn't look to be iron at all but were more iron than I've ever been! I saw women who had rosy cheeks and looked like they had just taken a little jog (except they could barely stand), I saw people with vomit on them, a guy who had a huge scrape across his face and bloody knuckles from what I can only assume was a spill on the bike. But he finished!
I don't know how many times I said Congratulations!! You are an IRONMAN. Well done!
One man picked me up in a hug and wouldn't let go and all I could do was giggle and say "You did it!!" His joy was contagious.
But the guy I remember most and who I'll remember a year from now in my own Ironman was a young guy in a green trikit and a hat. He ran over the finishline, jumped in the air and cheered with a fist pump. Then stopped and stood there just as suddenly and covered his face, overcome with emotion. We all collectively said "awwww..." with so much pride and appreciation for him and his accomplishment. As we escorted him to the side we heard his friends congratulating him and comforting him.
8 weeks ago today, cancer free. :D
One of the best nights ever to stand in the exact right spot and watch over and over and over from that vantage point of people of every race, gender and creed--achieve their dream. They crossed the finish line and some were irritable, some jubilant, some gracious, some over it-- all were in some kind of pain... and all were changed. For not everyone can be iron. But as of last night, they are!!