There are not many moments in sports like the ones that take place at the finish of the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. We’ve all witnessed milestones like a walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th, the winning field goal with no time on the clock at a Super Bowl, or watching our child score the winning goal at a league championship game. Those moments become a part of the memory banks we draw on in tough times.
Now picture this. You are standing on a piece of real estate that’s one of the most spiritual spots on earth. It’s where dreams come true and adulation is much deserved. You own this spot for nine straight hours, witnessing one dream after another become reality.
Together with the crowd, I see a winner, and we all become a part of the finisher’s world for a brief second.
People often ask me what my favorite moments are at Ironman Hawaii. If you put yourself in that spot at the finish you know there are more than a few favorites. Everyone who comes in with their arms raised to the heavens or with tears streaming down their face or with legs limping in pain … each one of them brings a favorite moment. The caption on the cover of all sports magazines worldwide that day should read, “1770 sports milestones took place on October 9, 2010 in Kona, Hawaii.”
Back in 2003 I was asked what I see in an Ironman athlete’s eyes when they finish. It was a pretty deep question, and I did my best to answer but knew I fell short. After some reflection I put it in writing for myself, and now eight years later I will share it:
8/1/2003 – What I see in their eyes is passion, a passion that comes back to me tenfold as I announce their names. No words on their part need be spoken, their eyes tell the story of joy and pain at the same time. Like the ancient gods of the Big Island, the power that each finisher possesses is immense. It’s a power they have unleashed on this Ironman day though they may not totally understand it. That power transcends all that are present, permeating every cell. The fortunate ones take a small bit of this power home to become a better person and creating a stronger life.
The look in an Ironman finisher’s eyes, whether they’re a first-timer or a veteran, reveals a distinct individuality—one that is only discovered through passion, through finding something in themselves they didn’t know existed. Looking in their eyes makes me one of the luckiest people on earth. Together with the crowd, I see a winner, and we all become a part of the finisher’s world for a brief second.
Each Ironman athlete has their own stories of the struggle involved in pursuing balance in life, and sometimes having to put that balance on hold to achieve a dream. I see the sacrifices in their eyes and then the pure joy of completing this three-piece puzzle called Ironman. And if I look closer, I see an even better person in each of their futures.
What each finisher doesn’t realize is that they are looking into another person’s heart. It is like a piercing stare into a heart that is not yet full. A heart that wants to grab and hug and wish for Ironman finishes throughout a lifetime.
Congratulations to all of you this year and a big Mahalo to the countless volunteers who made another day in Kona possible. Your love for the competitors is nothing compared to the love all of us in this business have for each of you.
We’ll see you in Arizona.