- On August 23, 2016
This is a photo of my newest–and most treasured–piece of jewelry.
I’m spending this lovely sunny Sunday hanging around the temporary retaining walls of the Ironman Triathlon in Coeur d’Alene Idaho, cheering on my 5-time Ironman finisher husband. More about that in another post.
Building on the ‘true Olympic spirit’ embodied by Abbey D’Agostino of the United States and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand carrying each other across the finish line after they collided in the 5000 meter qualifier in Rio, this Ironman event did a unique and quirky thing. Each participant was given a green wrist band with the words ‘It Takes One.’ The idea was to give to someone who made a difference in their day.
The Ironman is a grueling mentally and physically intense event. The top contenders put in 8+ hours of continuous activity over 140.6 miles. The rest of the field (1000s of normal people like you and me who decide to test their mental and physical limits) are out on the course for up to 17 hours, from before dawn to almost midnight.
While it is a wholly individual event, there are a lot of people who make sure the triathlete can complete their mission. An army of volunteers–trash picker uppers, course security, direction guides, wet suit pullers, sunscreen sprayers, Gatorade hander-outers, fruit cutter uppers, portalet cleaners, bike rackers, water safety kayakers, medical support. Not to mention the crowd of thousands who have steadfastly supported their competitor over the past 6-12 months of preparation…and then show up to hang out for 10-17 hours and enthusiastically cheer on everyone else who competes.
This bright green wrist band is an ode to the ‘it takes a village’ concept. A small token for the triathlete to give away to someone who made a difference to them getting through their day.
I received one today at 5:45 AM from a woman I met for less than a minute.
After helping my husband on with his wetsuit, I noticed a woman nearby struggling to put on hers. It didn’t look like she had any family or friends around to help her. I went over to see if I could help.
“Thank you. I’d love the help. I broke my hand and it’s hard for me to slide this on”. (If you’ve never put a wetsuit on, it’s like stuffing 20 lbs of sausage in a 5 lb sack.) “This is my first Ironman and I could not convince my husband to come.”
Well, that sold me. Someone doing their first awesome gut wrenching, mind numbing, most physically exhausting thing they will probably ever do…and no one here to cheer them on??? I added her number to my Ironman tracker app.
I saw her again right before she entered the swim area. I grabbed her. “There’s no one here to give you a hug for good luck, so I will.” And I hugged her hard and strong. She said, “You’re making me cry.” “Me too.”
“Thank you.” And she gave me her wrist bracelet. “You’re the first person today to make a difference for me.”
I cheered my husband as he came out of the 2.4 mile swim and transitioned on to his bike. Then I circled back to wait for my gal. A big shout out to her swim finish and then back to cheer on the bike course.
I’m tracking her. Swim, not bad. Bike, a really difficult second lap, like everyone. The wind picked up substantially and was a b***h according to the cyclists. After being brutalized on the bike course, she finished it up with a great marathon run.
I had only seen her for a minute in the pre-dawn in a black wetsuit. I didn’t know what she was wearing or how she’d look without a swim cap and goggles. There were hundreds of athletes and spectators milling around beyond the finish line. I caught a glimpse of a pink shirt. My intuition told me it was her. I pushed through the thick crowd to call after her as she headed into the finishers area. She turned, recognized me and gifted me with a huge smile of delight and appreciation. We hugged and she shared her race highlights. At that moment I felt so blessed that I could be her friendly face at the finish line; someone to give her a hug of congratulations on this massive achievement.
It only takes one. A moment of my time in the morning gave her the charge she needed to begin her journey. Her appreciation symbolized by the bracelet gave me a charge all day. The miracle of finding her in the crowd and completing the circle from her beginning to her end…well, it was so powerful for me I can’t even find words to adequately describe it.
That’s what’s funny about giving away a kind word or a kind act. It makes the recipient feel good and it makes you feel even better.
Who could use a proverbial ‘hug’ where you are? Maybe it is kind physical contact–releasing the ‘feel good’ neurochemical Oxytocin–or maybe it is a generous word or an empathetic ear to just listen.
It only takes one to make a big difference in someone’s life.
Photo credit: JMaliszewski, 2016