April 9, 2024
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April 9, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Sixteen hours, 21 minutes after I entered the water, I was done. (Credit: David Roher)

Mile 22: I was at the turnaround for the fourth and final time.

I was at the farthest end of the racecourse. Like the Apollo astronauts on their final revolution around the moon, all I had to do was turn around and head “home.” For anyone who has ever, at any age, felt that they just had to run home to their family because they missed them, this is what I was feeling at that moment.

I had 90 minutes to complete this race and I knew that I could walk those five miles, in less time.

I texted the family chat, “Tell me when you get here.”

Eric, my 17-year-old: “Dad we are here. I’m freezing.”

Me: “Go back to the hotel and get a jacket. You have 45 minutes.”

(You were right to ask them to arrive early at the finish line.)

And I know my son. If Eric said that he would be back in time to record my finish, he would.

Joanne was smiling more than I was and I was all smiles at the high-five. (Credit: David Roher)

10:00:32 p.m. (+15:57:46 since race start)

Mile 24: I texted my family directions; where to stand, who should record the video.

My wife responded, “We are here; you focus on finishing.”

OK, I had my orders.

10:13:32 p.m. (+16:10:46 since race start)

Mile 25: I exited the park for the last time and began the four-block run to the finish line. Three blocks from the finish, I stopped and pulled the Ironman costume out of the backpack.

(The ruck?)

Yes, the ruck.

I slid off my sneakers by pressing one foot against the other.

(So, no bending down?)

Slid my feet into the costume and then my feet back into my sneakers.

(How many minutes did you waste?)

The whole thing took less than 30 seconds and I appreciated the moment to catch my breath since I had been running at full steam since I exited the park.

Mile 25.5: I entered the town square. The spectators were standing on street corners, cheering and laughing and chanting “Ironman, Ironman.”

Mile 26: I disappeared behind the town hall building at the center of town as I followed the run course. The cobblestones felt uneven under my feet and the metal barricades were farther apart this last time. I knew that none of this was true, but on this final run, everything became more intense. The finish line was on the other side of this building, as was the crowd and my family. I had run this loop four times today and now I was going to be permitted to enter the finisher shoot.

You can see the crowd behind me and the length of the black and red finish carpet. (Credit: David Roher)

I sent a voice message on WhatsApp, “Eric, start recording.”

This was gonna be epic. My 17-year-old is better with tech than any of the adults in our house.

Joanne saw me as I ran towards the entrance to the finisher shoot. The shoot is only 400 feet long and you could see the run down that red and black carpet on the giant “tron.”

I’m glad that my son Eric was recording this finish. The speaker was blasting U2’s “Beautiful Day” and the crowd was cheering so loud that I only heard half of what Joanne said:

“It’s David Roher, all the way from the USA. Looks like Tony Stark … Here he is. You are an Ironman Daaaavid!”

I high-fived Joanne as I passed her. There was a sense of closure being able to connect with her at the finish line. We had spoken yesterday after a photographer pointed me out to her. She gave me a shoutout at the swim start, at the first loop of the run, at the third loop of the run and now, the high-five was verification that our day together was complete.

This was my 10th Ironman triathlon and no announcer had ever paid this much attention to me.

There were 3,000 competitors, but on this day, everyone was looking at me.

Beyond Joanne was a volunteer. He was waiting to place my medal around my neck, but I was looking for my wife and kids. I had been awake since 3 a.m. and I had been in motion for over 16 hours. I hadn’t seen my wife and children since the previous day and I was feeling every emotion, at once. All I wanted to do was hug my family and call my dad, but….

David Roher is a USAT certified triathlon and marathon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and veteran special education teacher. He is on Instagram @David Roher140.6. He can be reached at [email protected].

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