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Friday, January 21, 2022
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11:15:40 p.m. (+ 16:33:09 since race start) Mile 25.8

With just a half mile to go, something caught my eye...a lone chair by the roadside where nothing belonged there.

“This shouldn’t be here.”

But it was, just like the plant God made to shade Yona at the exact moment felt he could go on no more.

I stopped to put on the costume. I had been thinking about this moment for the last hour, hoping I would find something to sit on.

Once I sat down, I didn’t want to get up again...but I did.

Months later my friend Ed Lapa told me,

“I was following you all night on the Ironman app. Your average pace dropped at mile 25. Then it dawned on me. You stopped to put on the Ironman suit.”

I stood up and, like magic, I had “legs.”

(Yes, Lt. Dan, you got new legs.)

No, Forrest Gump, I was able to run again.

“I’m jogging. It hurts but I’m able to do more than walk.” A few town’s people line the roadside with athletes walking back to their hotels. I tried to see what the new medal looked like.

(How are they walking? How are you running?)

The costume changed everything.

People were cheering me on, so I felt empowered, almost obligated to run. Someone called out “That’s the real Ironman.” I was tired and sore but I waved and smiled as the climb to the finish came into view.

 

11:20p.m. (+16:40:00). Mile 26

I was two tenths of a mile from the finish...but with an incline.

I could hear the crowd at the finish line even though I couldn’t see the finish line yet.

As I crested the hill I saw the spotlights in the distance, so I texted my wife, “Tell the kids to look at the screen. Their father is here.”

I ran toward what can only be described as “a party.” There was music, flashing lights, people dancing...and a red carpet calling my name.

I stepped onto the carpet and time ground to a near halt. Anyone who has ever been in a car accident or has tripped and fallen forward can recall that moment when time stood still and the only sound in their ears was their own heart beating.

I’ve been here, on this red Ironman carpet six times before so I know that I want to savor the moment.

“If I give in to my impulses and run as hard as I can, I will miss my moment.” I trotted…I was looking for someone.

There were spectators on both sides of the barricades that line the finisher shoot. Some dancing, some jumping up and down.

(Focus, David.)

In the bright lights, I suddenly saw announcer Mike Reilly standing on the red carpet, five feet from the finish line.

I hi-five Mike Reilly and then I heard it—something I’ve never heard before. Normally, Mike just says your name and says “you are an Ironman.”

On this night, something magical happened for a second time.

“It’s David Roher...David Ironman. You...are...an Ironman.” And then Mike started laughing.

I crossed the finish line, holding my smile and my Ironman mask for what felt like an hour.

(Nothing like a picture of you crossing the finish line with your eyes closed.)

I waited for a volunteer to put my medal around my neck.

“Here’s your finisher hat and T-shirt.”

“Where’s my medal?”

“It’s inside the T-shirt...Covid.”

I actually felt bad for the volunteers in masks and rubber gloves.

(Where was your family?)

I spotted my wife and kids a few feet away, on the other side of the barricade. I walked up to them and heard,

“Yay, Daddy you did it! We love you.”

They were smiling and I had tears in my eyes as they gave me the world’s biggest hug.

There is always an emotional release when I see them at the finish line. This race brings so many emotions to the surface for me. Every struggle. Every failure. Every regret. They creep into your mind at those moments when victory starts to look iffy.

Those feelings don’t disappear when victory becomes reality. They linger, waiting for their release. That’s why I start to cry when I see my wife and kids.

I had persevered when things got tough. Not because I got lucky, but because I created my own luck, by seizing the opportunities when I could. I had created my own magic.

It was now after 11:30 p.m., but there was still one more magic moment on this special night.


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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