Dear World Triathlon Corporation/Ironman,
My name is Heather. You don’t know me, but I know you.
I’ve known of you for over a decade, ever since my sister first uttered her hopes of one day doing an “Ironman” race. I’ve been intrigued by you for years, ever since I caught my first Ironman World Championship coverage airing on NBC. I’ve dreamt of you with an unexplainable drive for the last 15 months, ever since I stood shivering in the cold until midnight watching complete strangers cross a finish line at Ironman Lake Placid 2009.
Racing a 140.6 mile triathlon and “Ironman” were synonymous in my vocabulary. They were one in the same, they went hand in hand. When I dreamt of crossing my first 140.6 finish line, it always included Mike Riley’s voice telling me “Heather Gannoe, YOU are an IRONMAN”.
I am but a new triathlete, a young mom of two toddler boys, and a full time college student struggling to make ends meet. But in the spirit of “those who say they can’t, and those who say they CAN” I’ve never let any of these situations or financial difficulties get in the way of my dreams. If you want something bad enough, you go for it. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. That is after all , the spirit of Ironman.
Or at least, it was.
Today, I read that you, the WTC/Ironman corporation, took a step away from us “ordinary” folk with your “Access Ironman” program. For a mere $1,000 a year, athletes can now cut to the front of the line to pay their $600 entry fee to a race that already sells out usually within 24 hours or so. What is already a HUGE financial stretch for many of us, between training, equipment, travel, and registration fees, is now probably untouchable.
And even if it’s not….even if this new program doesn’t rule out us financial underdogs…where has your spirit gone? What is Ironman becoming? I always thought it was for the “elite” in the sense commitment, “elite” in the sense of dedication, “elite” in the sense of drive. Never “elite” in the sense of “only for the wealthy”.
At first, I found myself incredibly disheartened at this news. Defeated almost. I know that sounds silly, especially coming from someone who has only just completed her very first season of triathlons, but has such big dreams of the iron distance. And really, I only have myself to blame for my naivety. I have a really hard time remembering that here in the running and triathlon world, we are not all one big happy family basking in the glow of each others accomplishments, picking each other up off of the ground with our disappointments, and motivating each other to be the best that we can be. Many of us, most of us really, are a part of that big happy family. But at the end of the day, the races we scramble to enter, and spend hours, days, and weeks focusing on…well they are a business. A business where the goal at the end of the day isn’t to high five us for crossing that finish line after all of our sacrifices, no, their goal is the bottom line. MONEY.
Congratulations Ironman, you just lined your wallets a little thicker, and disappointed the hearts of many.
But not me. No, I for one, have to say thank you.
THANK YOU for reminding me that MY 140.6 will have NOTHING to do with a label. THANK YOU for reminding me that it’s not about the official M-Dot finishers gear or that M-Dot medal I was really looking forward to hanging on my wall. THANK YOU for reminding me that My 140.6 will be about ME. About MY possibilities, about MY strengths, MY accomplishments, achieving MY impossibles…and NOT about what anyone tells me I am over a microphone when I cross that finish line.
Heather Gannoe – 140.6 or bust.