Inspiration comes in many forms. One may find it in the actions of people or in an experience. It often happens when one least expects it.
For more than 10 years, my wife, has participated in the Senior Games. I often find something very inspiring when I attend a state or national event. The Senior Games are sporting events for folks who have reached their fiftieth year on earth. There is no upper limit in age for the participants, but one may not start before fifty. The games are held annually at the state level and nationally every two years. The participants compete in five year age brackets, 50 to 54, 55 to 59, 60 to 64 and so on. The brackets are broken into men's and women's competitions for most sports. The National Senior Games move around the country to cities having venues that can handle the twenty four or more events ranging from archery to volleyball. More often than not, the events that I watch most closely are swimming and triathlon. Why these two events? My wife competes in these events. Enough said!
This year, at the nationals in Birmingham, Alabama, she competed in six swimming events where she won two silver medals, 3 bronze medals, and a fourth place ribbon. Quite an achievement that was a result of a lot of hard work and much practice. Yes, I find this inspirational.
some of the swimming awards
There are other moving moments at the swimming venue. There is a woman that we've seen at the last few national games who swims the backstroke; she is blind. She competes and I find that inspiring. Others who require a cane or a walker out of the pool do just fine in the water, inspiring. Another is Ole, a gentleman from North Carolina, who is competing in several swimming events and is in his mid nineties. Quite a testimonial for exercise and competition. There is one more example that I would like to share with you from the triathlon venue.
waiting to start the swim
At the Senior Games, the triathlon is not an Ironman, a Half Ironman, or even an Olympic length. It is a Sprint length, Swimming: 400M Freestyle (open water), Cycling: 20K, Road Race: 5K. This year, one hundred and thirty seven entrants made their way to the starting line. They were released in waves organized by age. As usual, I was very focused on my wife's position; I was attempting to capture photos of her performance as she moved through each leg of the event. Swimming is clearly her strength, and she emerged from the water 3 minutes ahead of the next competitor in her age group. She lost some time in the bike ride and a little more on the run. She managed to finish in second place which matched her performance in the previous national games. This was not the most inspirational moment of the day.
Earlier, while I waited for my wife to return from the bike ride, I saw an older competitor get started on the bike. He had a bit a of a wobbly start on the slightly uphill beginning of the bike circuit, but he got underway. He was not the last to start the bike ride, but most of the competitors were ahead of him. While walking around the transition area with my wife after she finished the run, I saw the last rider return from the bike ride. It was the wobbly fellow. As he exited the transition area to start the run, he requested of an official that the awards ceremony start without waiting for him to finish. He told the official that he was going to finish, but he did not know how long it would be. He started the 5K run.
The awards ceremony started after 136 of the 137 participants crossed the finish line. All of the awards were nearly handed out and photos taken. Then the master of ceremonies announced that Frank Farrar from Britton, South Dakota was approaching the finish line. She added that the 88 year old would win the gold medal for his age group. Nearly everyone moved to the finish line to cheer his completion with a time of 2:11:57. There were lots of selfies with Frank and lots of handshakes.
Frank Farrar and fans
The triathlon provided some inspirational moments for me. First, an 88 year old competitor chose to endure the rigors of a triathlon. The second thing was more inspiring. Frank did not want to have the other competitors be inconvenienced by waiting for him to finish. He wasn't just thinking about his race; he was thinking about his fellow competitors. I'm glad that I was there as he crossed the finish line. Truly a moving experience for me.