Strength and Beauty, Beauty in Strength

Ironman Triathlon. A 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run. One after the other. For the professionals, this is an athletic event taking a little over eight hours. For the "age groupers", those ordinary individuals competing for a myriad of personal reasons, the challenge can last all the way up to the seventeen-hour cut-off. These individuals range in age from 18 to well into their 80's, and each has their own goal, their own purpose in completing this grueling event. For some, it starts as a way to lose weight. Others are overcoming a substance addiction. There are those who just like the challenge.

For the age grouper this is a competition not against one another as much as it is against oneself and one's own fears and (perceived) limitations. The sport requires 20, 30, even 40 hours of training per week, and demands a dedication and perseverance that would conquer most individuals. Yet these athletes persist, pushing themselves harder, farther, longer in the hopes of crossing that finish line, earning them the title "Ironman."

When these champions cross the finish line the casual observer will see the exhaustion, the dehydration, the collapse, the retching, the muscle cramping, the tears, the snot and the spit. The observer will acknowledge the fitness of each participant, but not necessarily the beauty of these individuals.

The triathlete's quest is a very personal one; often a very selfish one, and often a lonely one. But each of these people is striving for a perfection, a beauty that is often lost on the average person. Not just corporeal beauty, although that is often a result. The beauty obtained by these individuals comes from a focus, a determination, a dedication to overcoming not only the limits imposed by their bodies, but surpassing the fears, self-doubts, and demons that the mind conjures up when the body is pushed to its physical limit. While each participant has his or her own reasons for pursuing this most demanding sport; many are driven to see just how much more they can get out of a body for which we are granted only temporary use.

The beauty of the triathlete lies not just in their physique, but in their character.

- Libby Roberts, March 2001