Two weeks removed from the inaugural Half Full Triathlon in Columbia, MD, some of the stories and moments from the October 2nd weekend are just now finally sinking in.
First, there’s the story of triumph and heartache shared by cancer survivor Shannon McGinn. Shannon recounted her tale Saturday afternoon at a luncheon for Team Fight, an organization whose members compete in races nationwide to raise funds and awareness for the fight against cancer.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Shannon fought to keep herself physically fit to help sustain the rigors of chemotherapy. What started out as walk/rest movements around the hospital floor evolved into 5Ks, then 10Ks, then marathons, and, finally, ultra marathons. With Shannon’s cancer now in remission, her running career is highlighted by a 110-mile run in just 24 hours, placing her 12th nationally. Just a week before the Half Full Triathlon, she competed in an 80-mile criterion race.
Next was the actual race itself. Never before had I competed in a race of this distance. A Half Ironman had been on my “bucket list” for several years. The energy exuded by the people and the event was more than I could have ever imagined. The spirit and vibe surrounding the Half Full Triathlon was infectious. People displayed genuine compassion for one another and shared their stories of possibility and hope.
The course tested me physically. It allowed me to escape into the Zen state of a beautiful pain. For five hours and 45 minutes I gave everything I had. I immersed myself into the depths of my soul and reflected on my two dear friends who were afflicted by cancer and, thus, my inspiration for competing. I lost Holly five years ago and Jimmy continues to fight now seven years into the battle.
My greatest memory from the weekend is the one forged by the love of family and friends. Many a tear was shed, many a hug was embraced, and many a laugh was chuckled by an “FA” group, more than 30 people strong. For me, the Half Full Triathlon wasn’t so much “life changing” as it was “life affirming.” While I memorialized one friend and competed in honor of another, the race served as a cleansing and a rebirth for my life and the choices that I will make in my remaining days.
One quote from the Team Fight luncheon summed it up best, “I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of not living.”
I want to give a special thanks to my friends at the Ulman Cancer Fund for organizing such an incredible event and for championing such an important cause. Keep fighting. http://bit.ly/drCVa5 (Shameless plug… look for the guy on the right 17-20 seconds in….that’s me hanging with my new friend Greg Dowd.)