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A Powerful Moment

Oct 12, 2015

Witnessed a powerful moment and needed to share it.

Actually, I witnessed a series of powerful moments at the Iron Girl Triathlon in Columbia, MD a few weeks ago.

Perhaps the most prevailing was watching the strength and spirit of teamwork in it’s purest form… powering Defu Fekadu, a physically challenged woman athlete, to complete the Triathlon. This was the first time I had heard of  Athletes Serving Athletes, an innovative non-profit dedicated to mentoring and training athletes living with disabilities.

ASA uses athletic activity as a catalyst for personal development---improving physical fitness, increasing self-esteem and empowering challenged youth to meet their highest potential.

I was waiting for Grace to complete the swim portion of the race. I was just a Dad hanging out with a camera, trying to snag a few shots of his daughter finishing the swim, when I noticed what looked like a large blow-up dinghy floating on the outside of the course.

I couldn’t tell exactly what was going on, but noticed that it didn’t appear anyone was at the helm…nor was there a motor or anything steering it. As it got closer, I noticed a woman had a rope wrapped around her body as she was swimming --- the other end attached to a dinghy. She was swimming and pulling the dinghy over a half mile in the water. Inside was Defu.

Upon reaching shore, Defu was exhilarated, as was the crowd stunned by what they were witnessing. The cheers and applause from the spectators were long and deep. A group of volunteers nudged the craft onto shore, lifted her out, and placed her in an apparatus that attached to a bicycle… ready for her bike partner and her to complete the next portion of the race. The applause and support from the by-standers was overwhelming.

Just the pure power of volunteers giving so deeply, and the courage of Defu to commit and engage in this journey…if that scene didn’t motivate you…nothing will.

It got me really thinking… what was it like for each of these 1,300 women to complete this race? I decided to take more notice of my surroundings…watch what was going on…and of course, cheer on Grace.

Found out, the oldest participant was 78. Don’t know her name, didn’t get a chance to see her…but holy smokes! At 78, this “Iron woman” was doing a Triathlon!

Let’s all agree… never say never. Now I wish I had tracked her down.

The youngest in the Tri was 14. I did see her…she blasted through the bike portion and was through transition to the run in seconds. Whoosh. No one was even close to her…kept waiting for other bikers…the minutes just passed by. This young lady was blazing new, bold trails, and setting an example for all of us.

One born in 1937, the other 2001…both on the same trail.

And one heck of a lot of power in between those years showed up also. I saw mom’s running tag-team with their daughters. Friends, sisters, partners holding hands as they completed the last 50-yards. I saw competitors stop and help others.

I saw a lot of giving.

Grace had wrapped up the swim and was on the bike for the next hour, so I wandered back to the starting area for the swim.

Participants were still lined up and being staged into the water...but it was the older women. Women 60 years and over, 55-60, then 50 and over. All as excited as teenagers…but it felt like a big team.

You could feel the attitude that there were no losers today… just winners. Reminded me of a great Teddy Roosevelt quote (it’s a little long, but read it anyway):

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man(/woman) stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man(/woman) who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself(/herself) in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he(/she) fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his(/her) place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." 

It was a great day for me. I not only witnessed some true and powerful moments (once I opened my eyes and looked around)… but I also got to track Grace, and her friend Tara…both kicking that course hard.

Motivates me to get my own game back on…these women were inspiring. That day, there were 1,300 champions out on the course.

To see the Athletes Serving Athletes in action, check out this video:


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