Kona has been home to the World Championship Ironman Triathalon for the past 30 years and this year’s race on October 8th was no different. The race is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. Basically, it’s insane. There were over 1,900 athletes who participated this year; the oldest an 81 year old man, and the youngest a 19 year old girl. The athletes started trickling in about a week before the race to practice and get a feel for the course. By Thursday, the streets were packed with cyclists and runners and the ocean had a constant flow of swimmers. I’ve never seen more physically fit people in one place in my life.
Each year YWAM students have the opportunity to volunteer for the race. I decided to get up early to watch the start of the race, and then watch the kids that afternoon so Heather and Rich could volunteer. I walked down from campus with a group of students at 4:45 am in order to get a good seat for the start of the race at 6:30 am. The professional athletes started at 6:30 am, followed by the age groupers at 7:00 am. The excitement and energy was intense and my heart was pounding with adrenaline right before the cannon went off to announce the start of the race. I stayed to watch the transition from the swim portion to the bike portion of the race and cheered the cyclists on as I walked back to campus. All of the athletes had a tag on their back with their race number and first name, so I was on a first name basis with the people I was cheering for. It’s more fun that way. I came back to the race that evening with the kids to watch the finishers come in as we waited for Heather and Rich’s shift to be over. They were working security at the finish line which is probably the best job a volunteer can have. I was so inspired by all of the athletes and the thousands of friends and family who were there to support them. It was an experience that I will never forget and I am thankful to have been able to witness it.
As each person finished the race, the announcer would say, “(NAME), you are an Ironman.” I thought about how surreal it must have been for the athletes to hear those sweet words over the loud speaker after the thousands of hours of training, and the gallons of blood, sweat and tears. As I began thinking about the training plan and self-discipline of someone who qualifies for and competes in the World Championship, my mind wandered to the spiritual race that we run each day. Just like training for the Ironman, our spiritual training also requires self-discipline, time and energy, and produces both sweat and tears, triumphs and set-backs. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 says: “Do you not know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” What great news! We aren’t racing to win a prize that will be meaningless when we die. We are racing to win an eternal prize, one worth every single drop of sweat and every single set-back. I thought about how sweet it will be on the day I finish my race to be with Jesus and finally see Him face to face. To say, as Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearing.” and to hear my Father say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Oh, how I long for the day…
The finish line at 5:00am
Our great seats (stands?) of the start
The age groupers warm up
The starting line…. a treading starting line
The transition from the swim to bike portion of the race
A hand cyclist
The finish line at 6:30pm – almost 12 hours into the race
“Brittany, you are not an Ironman.”