I recently signed up for a team relay run in which 10 of us will alternate running over the course of 150 miles. Because of the layout of the course, not all legs are equal, and some runners face more difficult and longer stretches than others. When I joined the team and described my background (several marathons, one Ironman, various triathlons), the team captain asked if I would accept the most difficult assignment, covering the longest distances with the most challenging terrain. I was surprised at first, not having realized most of the team members weren't seasoned runners. I didn't expect to be the strongest runner on the team. But I quickly agreed.After I hung up the phone, I had the familiar feeling, "What did I get myself into?" But under that feeling was the fierce certainty that I would not let down my team. I was glad they chose me. I knew although I might slow down and I might stumble in the dark, I would absolutely not stop until I finished each of my assigned sections.It wasn't until I was speaking with my business coach about the things that hold me back and the things that push me forward that I gained an appreciation for the perseverance triathlon has given me. I've always been determined, even as a child. But having battled through a number of difficult triathlons, there's something branded into my spirit now. It's not so much that I'm determined to finish. It's more of a quiet knowledge, deep inside, that I definitely will.This isn't to say that I've never quit anything. Or even that I haven't quit an athletic event. I was midway through an hours-long obstacle course race when I fell into an open space between two planks while carrying a sandbag. My kneecap caught in the gap, taking the force of the fall. The knee injury was unfortunate, but not disabling. I could have continued. But it had been a miserable race, I wasn't sure if continuing on would cause further injury, and I was on target to miss the start of the kids' event, in which my son and daughter were participating. With all circumstances taken together, as I crouched in pain on the muddy ground, I decided to drop out and I turned in my race number.But that incident did not erase the solid feeling I often have that I just won't quit.Triathlon gave me that feeling.I think back to my very first sprint triathlon, which I completed on a borrowed mountain bike. I didn't understand the quick-release lever on the bike seat, and the seat kept slowly lowering itself as I rode. I repeatedly stopped, dismounted, raised the seat and rode on. During the run portion, the embarrassment of my work friends seeing my walk was the only thing that kept me going. The whole thing was far from ideal. But I finished.Now, to do otherwise is almost unthinkable. It's not the only gift triathlon has given me, but it may be the most important.
Owner at Beginner Triathlete, web marketing consultant at SiteInSight, writer, entrepreneur, advocate for unstructured nature play for kids.