dare • verb 1 have the courage to do. 2 defy or challenge to do.
From the Old English: durran "to brave danger,"
When was the last time you confronted a choice between courage and cowardice? Our kids probably encounter it with some regularity, at least in its most basic form. Everyone is taller than they are, they cannot get from place to place without help, every year they are put into a new classroom with new teachers and new information to master, and several times each day they have to go onto a playground. On the playground someone may ask them point blank, "whatsa matter? Are you chicken?" They might even get the "bock bock" clucking sound to go along with it. Someone may challenge them with "I dare you," or even break out the "double dog dare."
The average grownup, with a little forethought, can structure a life to avoid that kind of direct challenge. If you want, especially in America, you can live beige. You can get a reasonable education and a reasonable job with reasonable expectations and predictable scheduling, resulting in a predictable career, and predictable retirement and a predictable decline. You won't risk much failure, but how much victory will you taste? Life becomes sort of like bathwater that is too tepid to be hot, and way too short of cold to be felt.
Kids don't live beige, and neither do triathletes. It is impossible to live beige before a training session that is longer or more intense than you have ever done before. Dare you start, not knowing whether you can finish? It is impossible to live beige on the shoreline before the gun goes off. Some of us are standing there knowing that, in the near past, we could not swim with our faces in the water. Dare you cast yourself into this kicking, seething foreign environment?
No matter who the athlete is or how many races he or she has done, triathlon is a daily "double dog dare." The water, or the distance, or the weather, or our own physical limitations cast down the same kind of challenge, no matter who you are. "Are you chicken? Do you dare?"
We do dare. We loathe beige. Tepid sucks. An anesthetized march to dust is unacceptable. For us, like Teddy Roosevelt, it is "Far better . . . to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure . . . than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
Dare. Win. Triumph. Fail. Enjoy. Suffer. Shun beige. I double dog dare you.