So the story began a little over a year ago, I met Billy at the Gym pool where I spend most of my water time. I had seen him around before, he is a runner and has run the Comrades Marathon several times, which immediately earns my respect (seriously – 90k of running nothing but hills???).
One day, Billy plucked up the courage to get in the pool, quite a feat, when you consider that he couldn’t swim at all, and being as short as he is, barely has his head above the water. As I swam I watched his persistant struggles – big splash, gasp, splutter which would almost always end with him hanging on the lane divider.
As I swam I watched his determination. He was also watching me, trying to imitate what I was doing. I have been trying to perfect my less than perfect swim since I was 5, Billy was just trying to move from A to B. While some would laugh at the attempts of a grown man to conquer the wonders of the water, and in fact, many did, as the pool happens to be the centre of the entire gym! Undetered, Billy would be there every Friday watching me.
Eventually, after two or three of these “sessions”, I couldn’t help but let instinct take over, I just had to do what I could to help him get to his goal! At first the goals were small, like just kicking with a board. Then it was kicking with board AND moving forward! I would tell Billy “Practice that” Billy would say: “What next?” So in many ways we are alike, we are impatient when it comes to getting things right!
The Friday sessions continued over the past year, and Billy’s progress has been astounding! At first he was proud to say “I swam a whole length!!” A couple of months later, he told me he swam 2k – I was so proud!
As things are now, the Friday session still happens when I am home, and no, it is not about me passing something on to a black South African who never had the opportunity to swim, Billy has taught me it doesn’t matter what the obstacles, you want it, you can get it! So, every Friday, we do some sprint sets, Billy gets his fins on and we hammer it! I will never go slow to make him feel good and he couldn’t care if I am tired, he will do his best to kick my ass!
So you see, it is not necessarily about how many races you won or how great the season was, but rather how many times you get up after being pushed down. Billy has taught me that.
Billy has actually surprised me in many ways, most recently, he excitedly told me that he had signed up for a community triathlon coaching course (which he said he had been waiting the whole year to do!), he is now actively involved in getting local and disadvantaged kids into the sport.
My challenge to him is to do an Ironman, being an endurance junkie I know he is just itching! Well the picture above is of my friend Billy doing his first triathlon – an indoor triathlon in the very gym he learnt to swim. He does not yet own his own racing bike (we are looking for a really small one – like a size 48??), but he finished second in the race! I can tell you he wasn’t impressed with coming second….