The ‘Natural Born Hero’ analogy is seldom used. In fact I have singularly read it as the title of Christopher McDougall’s second acclaimed book to Born To Run.
I am proud to proclaim that over the last 6 years I have been lucky enough to witness and meet hundreds of Natural Born Hero’s.
Where you ask?
On the Big Island of Hawaii Kona at the Ironman Triathlon World Championships.
Since 1977 hundreds of lycra clad athletes annually embark on an epic journey. A journey that ultimately will see them swim 3.8km through a mass started whirlpool of chaos resembling piranhas in a feeding frenzy, cycle 180km against oven like winds and run 42.4km amongst lava fields under the Big Islands searing sun.
These athletes rise before the sun, shuffling kids, work and play to fit training in amongst an already packed itinerary of weekly chaotic movement known as life!
The reward is sweet, its momentary in its physical existence albeit eternal in ones mind, taken to the grave as a stupendous peaking of physical and mental proportions for the contenders.
For the witnesses – ultimately the sideline of supporters, the volunteers donning halos and wings, the proud husbands/wives beaming with astronomical pride, the young impressionable kids, the anxious mothers and fathers, the loyal medics, the visionary race organisers and the Kona locals – it is a sweet seduction, an inspiring vision of ‘Natural Born Heroism’.
What differentiates the Ironman World Champs to all other sporting World Championships is the marriage of a professional sport with an amateur one. Granted there are distinct differentiations although the big picture stuff that warms the heart, parading amongst emotions, and encapsulating the thought provoking images are the same.
There is something so special and surreal it is alien like witnessing firsthand what the ‘self help’ books and ‘life coaches’ passionately deploy upon pages that sadly once closed ultimately get lost in perpetual space.
Witnessing the passion, the hunger, the empathy, the love, the drive, the elation, the endearing quantification that there really are no limits – simply the ones we place upon ourselves is empowering and enlightening to say the least.
I am known to compare a triathlon journey especially one of significant proportions – Half Ironman, Ironman and Ultra (albeit have not embarked on the Ultra journey just yet) to the end result of a quality counseling session (admittedly I haven’t embarked on one of these either) or ‘spiritual awakening if you like. It voluntarily fills you with emotion normally derived from viewing a Hollywood blockbuster or a wedding ceremony!
Ironman is a unique rarity, an all encompassing sport, business, hobby, addiction, career, affiliate, the list goes on. It’s a golden enterprise of epic proportions in a peaking health and wellness climate.
Countless facets, synergies, alliances, distinctions, cultures and ‘clashes’ pervade the 3.8km swim, 180km ride, 42.2km run on sacred Hawaiian land.
It is a true adulation/legacy to many – from the original visionaries, the founders- the Ironman Godfathers if you like of conceptual Ironman royalty, and the endurance sport historians educating the ignorant masses to the amateurs inspiring their friends and families, local communities at large, the professional athletes achieving modern day super hero performances inspiring the masses, and the modern day visionaries of Ironman carrying the unique globalized Ironman baton.
It is a stakeholders paradise in which we are all uniquely that! Financial, emotional, conceptual stakeholders.
I know there is a Natural Born Hero in each and every one of us. Circumstances, destiny, etc naturally reaps havoc with humanity causing one to denature into oblivion, the other to dance amongst the stars amidst reaching for the moon. To those who have embarked or yearn to embark on this epic journey (as athlete or supporter) – Thanks for shining bright, for being the Natural Born Hero for all to see!
Looking forward to next year – where hopefully I can tick two World Champ events in one year