Saturday, November 20, 2010


An interesting thing I've already noticed about Ironman distance racing - once you make the leap to the 140.6 mile mark, people are far more interested in why you are racing than anything else.  In fact, I was challenged with this question sooner than I had anticipated. 

One of the benefits of volunteering for an Ironman race is the guaranteed chance to sign up for the next year’s race.  The day after IMFL 2010, I showed up bright and early while Heidi and the rest of the support crew recovered from the previous day's event.   Upon reaching the front of what I estimate may have been a 26.2 mile registration line, I eagerly approached the desk with my ID, wristband and credit card in hand. 

Laid-back teenager behind the desk: Got your wristband?

Me: Yup.

Teen:  ID and credit card?

Me:  Yup.

Teen: So, why are you signing up?

The blank look on my face must have been priceless.  Why am I signing up?  A thousand potential responses rushed through my head.  Why are any of these thousands of people signing up?  Clever marketing?  Narcissism?  Masochism? Some cliché Everest reference - 'Because it's there?'  To see if I can?  Because I needed to fill about a thousand empty hours over the next year?  For the tattoo?  Shut up kid - just take my money! 

Totally unprepared for this inquisition, I must have muttered something about challenges and stared off into space.  He finished typing in my information and sent me on my way with my very own registration confirmation sheet that I would use to officially register the following week.

Online registration marked my second encounter with the notorious "Why?"  I was somewhere between entering my address and blood type when I was stopped dead in my tracks by this:

Now that I think of it, posing this question serves two purposes for the WTC - it identifies those inspiring stories that the Ironman has become so known for.  In this box some would type, "Because I want to prove I don't need legs (or eyes) to do this."  "Because I beat cancer and haven't stopped moving since." or "Because I promised (someone) that I would, and I know he or she will be watching from above when I finish."

In addition to shining a spotlight on the truly inspirational, this question may also serve to eliminate the uninspired.  Perhaps more than a few athletes have simply walked away from the table (despite the two hour line they endured) when challenged by their own inquisitive teenage registrar.

For me, the question of "why?" is perhaps the most important factor to consider in the face of this crazy sport we enjoy so much.  As with life, the "why" is what distinguishes a life well spent from a waste of time.  

After some consideration, I have discovered that the truest "why?" for me is to bring pleasure to the God who created and saved me.  To that purpose I train and race and endure.  For the God who blessed us with the ability and opportunity to swim and bike and run takes pleasure in watching us in the same way that a parent enjoys watching his child at play.  And so each step or stroke of the way I will find within myself the spirit of a child, waving to his father on the sidelines and spending the last of his energy and effort in order to make his father proud.

For each of us the "why?" is different.  What's yours?



  1. The biggest question that we face. The cool thing about triathletes, is that we all have a story, think back to when you were a catcher at IMFL, the faces of the people that crossed the finish line, many in tears, many with smiles, many looked like they just took their last step, but every single person had a story why, I sit at the finish line and see these expressions and wonder "What is their story"

  2. Filling out a WTC race form is worse than doing my taxes. There are SO MANY questions on that application



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