There were over 1700 women of all shapes and sizes competing. The oldest was 74 years’ of age. That’s right… you heard me correctly: 74! There were many doing this for the first time; there were other’s doing it for their 9th time: the number of times the race has been held; there were many doing the race in memory of loved ones who had lost their fight with cancer. The most touching for me was the person who was racing in honor of her father who died two days’ prior!
What makes this race special is that there is no cut off to each leg of the event. If it takes you over an hour to complete the swim, so be it. If you’re the last person in from the bike course and you walk the entire 3.4- mile run course, so be it. You will still hear: “Congratulations! YOU are an Iron Girl” as you cross the finish line.
After I served by encouraging each swimmer as they entered the lake, I went to the swim exit and I watched. I watched as friends and family stood cheering their athlete on to victory. I watched as kayaks supportively surrounded each final swimmer, who was obviously struggling to finish the swim. The kayakers were paddling gently by their side in case the athlete needed to rest, before continuing on. The kayaks couldn’t advance the swimmer but they could be resting posts, for the athlete to summon their energy for the next attempt.
Some swimmers were on their back; some were doing the breast- stroke; some were doing the crawl. Their time didn’t matter; their technique didn’t matter. What mattered was that they set a goal; summoned every ounce of courage to tackle their first open water swim; persevered; endured discomfort; and held on to their vision and commitment in support of whatever cause.
I will admit to tearing up as I watched the final swimmers exit the lake. By the sounds of those cheering and the high fives, you would have thought the swimmer was the first to emerge. There was one thing missing from that scene and that wasjudgment. There was no “good” or “bad:” No “right” or “wrong.” Only shared joy in the success of the athlete.