A new inspiration

Earlier this week, I had a chance to catch up by phone with some friends from Bemidji, which will be hosting its inaugural Blue Ox Marathon this weekend.

The race weekend has been a long time in the making, and a core group of people have put in quite a bit of time to make it happen. I’m proud they’ve seen nearly 800 people sign up for the various races, and glad my friends on the race committee are seeing a good response through registration.

One of my friends, Lee, recounted his story of Ironman Wisconsin, which we both planned to do this past September. While I still lived in Bemidji, we shared stories and training plans and strategy for the massive undertaking of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles. He’s a repeat Boston Marathon participant, and a terrific endurance athlete.

But his Ironman experience was amazing and reminds me about the good in people.

About half way into the bike leg of Ironman Wisconsin, at a water/aid station, another rider inadvertently turned into Lee’s bike, striking the front and causing a nasty crash (he would later need several dozen stitches).

It turns out that a doctor happened to be cheering on athletes at the station, and went to get his black bag out of his car. (Yes, literally, the doctor had a black bag in his trunk.) The doctor helped stop the bleeding and tended to the injuries before the race’s medical personnel were able to get there, and told Lee that he could probably go on if he wanted since it didn’t appear that there was significant ligament damage in his knee.

The doctor’s work prevented Lee from being forced to drop out for receiving medical aid from race personnel. But then he had to tend to a bent wheel and the race repair team couldn’t get the bike functional again. So the doctor sent his wife home to get his bike, and offered a wheel to Lee so he could continue.

Who was at the finish line to see him through? This same doctor – a stranger before the crash. At least three other people, all helping with the race, also tracked Lee’s progress throughout the race. One of them ran the last mile with him.

When I watched Lee cross the finish line (Ironman streams the finish line of its events online), I had no idea what happened. I suspected he crashed because of the split time of the middle portion of the bike. But I didn’t realize how others had pulled together to help him make his goal. I also watched other friends cross the finish line that evening, but none as inspiring as the will to go the distance.

My morning runs haven’t been as dramatic, but I’ve been enjoying perfect weather for making them count. The past two days have been 7-plus miles each. As an aside, with the relocation, I put my Ironman dreams on hold. But I haven’t abandoned them. I’m looking at a couple of half Ironman distances next year, and cherish the coming challenge of training – both on the bike and in the pool – for the rigors of an endurance sport that will make me a better athlete.

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