Once upon a time, I was totally and completely enthralled with the M-Dot race in Kona. Now mind you, I knew I’d never race there. I’m not fast enough to qualify and I’m too cheap to sign up for the lottery. Regardless, as a relatively new triathlete, I was enamored with the pageantry, the effort, and the spectacle of Kona. Or at least what NBC made all of that pageantry and spectacle out to be.
Check social media this week and you’ll see countless posts, tweets, and Facebook updates about folks who are excited for the race. Some are probably deservedly so – as they are racing. Others are merely spectators.
After having been around this sport for several years now, I wonder “why”? Why are people so fixated on Kona?
“It’s the human interest stories,” people will say. “I like to watch the age groupers, because they are just like me,” others might say.
99.9% of the folks that will lace up their shoes this coming weekend are not like the vast majority of triathletes in the United States (or for that matter, elsewhere in the world). For starters, most of them are faster and better athletes than you and me. Certainly “me”. Not so sure about “you”. So cross that argument off the list of why Kona might be compelling to watch, and let’s focus on the other point above: the human interest stories.
Certainly, there will be some athletes who have overcome adversity so that they could race in Kona. Some will have worked their way back from debilitating disease. Others might be racing to raise money for their Aunt Sally who has ingrown toenails or some other health issue that might be more severe. Others will be injured during the race and show extreme grit and intestinal fortitude by pushing on. All of these scenarios are compelling. To me, these sorts of stories really define what triathlon is all about – it’s about growth in life. Overcoming odds. Improving oneself.
But here’s the deal. Those human interest stories are not isolated to a couple thousand athletes who get to race in one race on an island in the middle of the Pacific. Amazing human interest stories happen at EVERY race. Long or short. Locally organized or put on by a large race production company.
Personally, I love hearing about the trials and tribulations that an athlete has overcome to finish a race. And Lord knows, racing an iron distance event (regardless of brand) is a HUGE, LIFE CHANGING event. Reading or hearing some of the stories that our fellow athletes share can be so uplifting.
I just don’t think that one race in particular should garner all of the support for those human interest stories. Go pay attention to any race and you’ll see the stories. Any Ironman brand race. Every Rev3 brand race. Every race put on by Billy Bob the Race Director.
You can find all the inspiration you need at each and every triathlon on the plant. Not just one way out in the Pacific Ocean.