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Spirit of Triathlon: Get Off The Beach

Posted Jan 11 2009 5:42pm
Inspire: • verb 1 fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something. 2 create (a feeling) in a person. 3 give rise to. 4 inhale.

— ORIGIN Latin inspirare ‘breathe or blow into’.
--Oxford English Dictionary
Inspiration. The word has been used to describe weighty and mystical happenings, like when people are touched by God--when the Spirit of God is "breathed into" a person who is regenerated to new life. The word has also been trivialized, used to describe what people feel like after seeing a touching film or beautiful sunset. It temporarily gives the warm fuzzies but effects no real change.
We in the tri-blogosphere often use it to describe our effect on each other, as in, " Wil, you're so inspiring." Whether or not you and I share the same spiritual convictions, I am coming to the firm conclusion that we are using that word in that life-changing sort of way. Our sport and our participation in it "breathes" life into ourselves and our community.
Look around the blogosphere posts for this week alone. Jessi's post leaves no doubt that triathlon has changed who she is, from the inside out. The Jessi pictured in her mind is a different person from the Jessi of only a short time ago, and she attributes it to triathlon.
The Kahuna wrote about how an open water swim breathed life into an otherwise soul-sucking day. His reservations as he hit the Pacific Ocean made him observe, "You can't decide if that bit of fear makes you feel like a coward or that you are alive for the first time today. Probably both."
Iron Wil went on a mission to find her life, and she has succeeded through triathlon. She observed, "Most things I went looking for I discovered I already had. And simple things captivate me once again. My life is where I want it. And I'm who I want to be."
That pre-blogger, Henry David Thoreau, observed, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." ( Walden, Ch. 1, Economy (1854)). Are we not doing somewhat the same thing? Do we not find life in the "deliberate" tempo we set in the water or over the land? Do we not breathe life from the "essential facts" of reaching for something we cannot yet do and then working until we do it? I think so.
Nytro would probably find it odd to be juxtaposed with Thoreau, but she went to her own "woods" and fronted "the essential facts of life" in her first olympic distance triathlon. Like each of us, she kept going when it would have been more comfortable to stop. Perhaps, like Thoreau, she did not want to discover that "she had not lived." She put it this way: "[I] kept telling myself that even if I was the last one out of the water, the beach was full of people who hadn't even tried."
This life is a beach full of people who may one day discover at the end of their lives that, by staying on the beach, they have not really lived. We are the happy few who have ventured off the beach and have inhaled deeply of life so we can breathe it into each other.
Hey! You there . . . on the beach. It doesn't have to be triathlon, but get off the beach. Do something hard. Do something simple. Try. Live.
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