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My Ironman NYC Speech « Mary Beth Ellis' Blog


My Ironman NYC Speech

For those who are interested…here is my speech from Ironman NYC.

I want to talk a bit about what it means to be an Ironman…

There was a story in New York Times yesterday about an athlete named Chris Clearly. Chris was hit by a car, fractured his skull and nearly died. His doctors called his wife to tell her he might not make it. And for months after that he withered away in a hospital bed.  Doctors again told him, that recovery might be impossible.

Yesterday, Chris became an Ironman.

And there was something that Chris said that stuck with me.

He said: “I think for me when someone tells me I can’t do it, I’m going to try to do it.”

That’s the kind of toughness that makes an Ironman. Because Ironman requires you to routinely do things that your friends and neighbors think are impossible – or at least completely crazy.

While your friends are having barbeques, you’re getting up at 5 a.m. and riding six hours on a perfectly good Saturday morning. When your co-workers are training for a half marathon, you’re running a full marathon after 2.4 miles in the water and 112 miles on a bike (is that even legal?) And yesterday morning, how many of your were asked, “why in God’s name would you ever swim in the Hudson River?”

But we do these things. Every day. Not because we have to. But because we can.

When I was 28, my doctors told me I had to stop running because I had developed arthritis in my hips. It was devastating. But, I wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop. So, I shifted from marathons to triathlons and have been blessed with the privilege of doing Ironmans around the world for a living.

I was told it wasn’t possible. But I proved it was.

That’s the spirit of Ironman.

Nowhere is that spirit more rich than here in New York City – a city that suffered through an unthinkable tragedy a decade ago and showed that when things are at their worst, New Yorkers are at their best.  This is NOT a city that quits.

Each of you showed that spirit yesterday – and each of you has showed it for many months leading up to yesterday. Ironman doesn’t come easy. It doesn’t come without blood, sweat, and if you’re like me, a LOT of tears. There are moments in training and in every Ironman race where you want to quit, where you doubt yourself – or at least doubt your sanity. A few of yesterday’s hills, particularly around mile 23, almost broke me.

But, in those moments – and in that pain – is where we find strength.

Perhaps the best thing about Ironman, though, is that you don’t leave that strength on the course. You take it with you. You take it to your family, your career and you share it with the world around you.

Whether you’re like Chris Cleary and overcame great tragedy. Or, if this is your 10th Ironman… Yesterday, each of you proved in some way that you could do something most people think is insane.

You are an Ironman now. Take that spirit into the world, and show the world that, no matter how difficult the challenge, you can do anything.

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