My husband, Clay, and I are in Hawaii celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. The planned vacation coincided with the Ironman World Championship on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Once we discovered this happy coincidence, we quickly changed our plans and signed up to volunteer.
Some might find it odd, giving up part of your vacation to volunteer, but we knew it would be an experience we wouldn’t forget.
We arrived Thursday night and spent Friday exploring the adorable town of Kona. No where else on earth, I expect, does an entire community give itself to a sporting event like this one. Taking advantage of the buoy line, we swam part of the 2.4 mile course the athletes would swim the next day (I swam a very small portion, feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the depth and undertow – incredible)
We camped out at 4:30 am on a lanai of our hotel which looked over the swim start. Not all of the 1800 athletes who entered the water completed the swim in the two hour time limit. The strong current and sea urchins claimed a few competitors.
Clay and I took our watched in awe as the professional athletes sped down hills at speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour – then we took our places at the run aid station. We served water to the runners at mile 10 (halfway up a very steep hill) and at mile 25 (halfway down the very same hill). As the pros race by us, we heard stories of 125 degree ground temperatures on the lava fields and rain. After the pros came the more mortal – yet still incredible, “age-groupers” (athletes who finished 1st or 2nd in their age group at qualifying races). Behind them came the athletes in wheel chairs and with artificial limbs and the athletes in the 70 – 80 year-old age brackets.
We took a break and were thankfully under a roof when the monsoon hit, nearly and hour of relentless tropical rain. Yet, the competitors kept running.
We joined a crowd of hundreds of people at the finish line. Finishers, showered and changed, joined the crowd as well to welcome home the athletes who would push the 17 hour time limit.
Yes, the event ends at midnight. To be an Ironman, you must cross the finish line by midnight.
After 16 or more hours of endlessly pushing their bodies through pain, up hills and through unbearable weather, they came across the finish line. Some with dazed expressions, barely realizing it was over. Others ran with renewed energy, carried forward by the cheers of the crowd. Some raised their fists in victory. Others clung to love-ones in exhaustion and relief. Mothers and fathers crossed the finish line with their children along side. Couples, finishing hours apart, were joined by their mate for the final leg. There was even one marriage proposal at the finish line – she said “yes.”
What was the best moment? It came 16 and a half hours into the day. A woman – someone you might pass on the street and never guess she was capable of such a feat – ran toward the finish line, arms outstretched as if to embrace the crowd who pounded on the boards lining the course and screamed in excitement for her. Then she slowed, placing her hand on her head. You could see the moment of recognition in her eyes. After months of training and sacrifice, after hours of agony, she had made it. This six-year breast cancer survivor was going to cross the finish line and she was overcome with the joy of seeing her goal completed. The crowd went wild – she stood on the finish line and drank it in – fully connected with the joy of the moment.
Are you fully connected with the joy of your accomplishments? Take a page from this incredible woman’s book. Slow down recognize the moment when it comes. You work hard to fulfill your goals. Maybe it isn’t crossing a finish line, but every goal should be celebrated when you find success.
Slow down and connect with your joy!
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Eliz Greene is the Busy Woman’s Guide to a Health. Drawing on her experience surviving a massive heart attack while seven-months pregnant with twins, struggling to lose the 80 pounds gained during her pregnancy, and her background as an adaptive movement specialist, Eliz developed simple strategies and tips to help other busy women be more active, eat better and manage your stress.
As the Director of the Embrace Your Heart Wellness Initiative, Eliz travels the country energizing and inspiring audiences in keynotes and workshops on women’s heart health. She writes one of the top 100 health and wellness blogs. Find more at www.EmbraceYourHeart.com.