April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I even passed a kid who said to his father, “Daddy, I don’t think he is allowed to walk.”

The voice in my head said, “Listen kid. You can walk; You can even crawl. As long as you cross that finish line before midnight, you will be an Ironman … and so will I tonight… if nothing else goes wrong.”

I have been wearing my Iron Man costume at the Ironman since 2017. I have always carried it in a backpack.

(In the swim?)

No, I pack it with my running shoes and only carry it for the marathon.

(Oh … only a marathon?!?)

I decided to try something new for Ironman United Kingdom.

(Isn’t your mantra, “Nothing new on race day”?)

Yes…

(So you violated your own rule?)

Yes…

(So, how did that work out for you?)

Read on…

At an Ironman, you are given “special needs” bags.

(What are “special needs”?)

Almost anything you want them to be. For most people it is a jacket.

(In case it gets cold?)

Yes, but it would have to be snowing for me to put on a jacket.

“Special needs” can be a snack or a refill of your protein powder or a change of socks.

(You decided to stash the Iron Man suit in there, didn’t you?)

Yup … and I paid for it. I could have grabbed that bag on any of the four loops of the course, but I waited for the last pass. When I stopped, the bag was gone. I gave myself two minutes to search. Then I moved on. As fun as the suit was to wear, this race was about overcoming the crushing physical shutdown on the bike that I had to fight through. I continued running into town for the last time. The sun was finally starting to set in England now that it was 10:30 p.m. The finish area was awash in flood lamps with screaming crowds on both sides of the cobblestone roads.

(Europeans really love their sports.)

I stepped onto the red and black carpet that marks the last 200 yards of the run and felt that relief yet again from overcoming the bike. I didn’t cry this time like I did when I made the bike cut-off. No, this time I smiled with elation that EVERYTHING I had done in training to get to this moment had been validated. The training worked. I crossed the finish line as my family watched from the other side of the barrier. I could hear my wife Janet screaming my name. Then a volunteer placed the finisher medal around my neck and I walked over to where my family was waiting. Janet turned to me as we hugged and asked,

“Where’s the Iron Man suit?”

“Gone.”

“Gone?” she asked in disbelief.

“Don’t ask.” I replied as I chuckled. The truth is that I had worn that costume for every NYC marathon since 2015 and every Ironman triathlon since 2017. It was time to retire the costume. I just wish I had found its replacement first.

(So, you are done dressing up as Iron Man … at the Ironman?)

No way. If you find something that makes others smile, you keep going. My earliest TV memories are of Carole and Paula of the Magic Garden as well as Mr. Rogers of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.

(You’re old dude.)

I guess one of the lessons I internalized from children’s programming during the Vietnam War was that it is important to make other people smile. Originally, I had only planned to wear it once because the 2015 NYC Marathon fell out the day after Halloween and I knew others would be running in costume. It was a great costume, but it was just a costume.

(OK, but why do you keep doing these races?)

I compete in Ironman triathlons because I enjoy the journey. From selecting new places to visit, to finding new places to run to during the training to finally arriving at the moment where it all comes together. I enjoy the challenges. From the logistics of nutrition to the logistics of travel to the logistics of making sure my wife and sons also have a good time. I enjoy the excitement of the Ironman village on race weekend, the excitement of making the time cutoff at bike to run transition and yes … the excitement on the faces of the crowds when they see Iron Man at the Ironman.

Speaking of which…there was still one thing left to do before we grabbed my bicycle and headed back to the hotel for a hot shower, warm food and a comfy bed…


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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