Thursday, July 16, 2020

The author starting the marathon portion of Ironman Cozumel.

“The point of a journey is not to arrive,” Neil Peart.

The journey is the prize.

(No, the prize is that prize. The only reason to do anything is the trophy.)

There is a greater reward. One that you find inside yourself when you realize there is more greatness inside you than you ever imagined.

(Are you insane?)

Quite possibly.

There is a transformative moment in the life of every athlete who competes in an

Ironman triathlon.

(You’ve told us this already.)

I’m a teacher, I want to see if you are listening.

It may be the first time you get on a bike and ride for 25 miles without stopping.

Or the first time you run for over an hour without stopping.

Or maybe that moment when you cross that finish line and you hear Mike Reilly call out your name…and you see the finish line crowd go crazy.

(When was it for you?)

It was at the first Ironman I ever competed in: Ironman Cozumel in 2010.

The Ironman Triathlon has specific cutoffs that the athlete must make:

Out of the water in two hours 20 minutes.

Off the bike after 10.5 hours.

Cross the finish in 17 hours.

(What does all that mean in “clock” time.)

The race starts at 7 a.m.

You have to be out of the water by 9:20 a.m.

You have to be off your bicycle by 5:30 p.m.

You have to cross that finish line by midnight.

Back in 2010, my training consisted of increasing my distance in each sport until I reached the race distance.

I was worried that if I didn’t get off the bike in time, there would be no marathon to run, so I put all my eggs in one basket.

(And you focused on the bike.)

I focused on the bike at the expense of the run.

(What were you thinking?)

I was thinking, “If I can get off the bike in time, I can walk the marathon.”

I had been so fixated on the time cut off for the bicycle that the moment I completed the bike portion I became overwhelmed with emotion. I walked around the changing tent for seven minutes, trying to calm down. 

(What about the finish?)                                 

I was so emotionally and physically exhausted that I couldn’t enjoy the moment.

(So why keep doing this race?)      

So many reasons why. One of them is the internal growth that I experience from…

(Surviving?)

I was going to say, “completing” this journey.

It was only when I looked back, did I see how far I had come.

(You mean after crossing the finish line?)

No, I mean yes. I mean, days after I realized that I had done something that only months before seemed too big for me to succeed at...

It was no different than any other goal one sets for themselves.

Anyone who has made a bar mitzvah for their child, for instance. You spend months preparing your child, the guest list, the table arrangements, the catering arrangements, the PowerPoint, that

on “the day”, you are too wrapped up to take in what is happening…until you pause.

Then the rush of emotions overwhelms you.

That is the transformative moment.

(What does one do with that moment?)

As athletes, we bank these moments as memories in our minds. For future moments of doubt.

(But what did you do?)

I put on my sneakers, grabbed a water bottle and ran out into the light of a setting Mexican sun.

I still had a marathon to complete.


David Roher is a USAT certified marathon and triathlon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and a veteran special education teacher. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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