Friday, October 10, 2008

Kona and Boston - A Proposal

That is the floating Coffees of Hawaii "coffee shop" in Kona Harbour dispensing java to the athletes preparing for the Ironman World Championships tomorrow.  Check it out HERE.  There are also pictures of the athletes swimming with dolphins in the harbour.  Hmmm....  coffee on top, dolphins below, Ironman World Championships tomorrow....  does that sound like fun?

I'm having fun just thinking about it.  I have decided right here, right now, that I will drink coffee off of that barge, swim with those dolphins and race that race sometime in the next 5 years.  You heard it here first.

It would be great if they had an official qualifier, or a qualifying time for Physically Challenged (PC) athletes....  in the meantime I will have to rely on my penmanship (and luck) to get in.  There is a PC lottery each year and I am told that we one-leggers are always welcome....  

This brings me to one of the "benefits" of disability that I find a bit patronizing.  Examples:

- Ironman World Championships - for most there is a HUGE challenge to qualify.  For us, write a letter with race resume and request a spot in the lottery.  Great, but not quite so earned.

- Boston Marathon - Again a HUGE challenge for most to qualify.  My qualifying time?  8 hours.  Are you kidding me?  I think I could walk it in 8 hours.  Great, at least I know I can go, but again doesn't feel quite so earned.

I could go on a letter-writing campaign and try to change the world (and maybe that is what this is...) but I also know that for recently disabled folks these things sound pretty good and might be pretty motivating.  I wouldn't want to take that away....  but there are plenty of triathlons and marathons out there creating an inclusive atmosphere.  What disabled sport lacks (with the notable exception of the Paralympics) is the mystique of races like Kona and Boston (a mystique which comes from the qualification criteria and the pride in achieving it).  

I think it would be an extremely positive sign for disabled sports if these two influential bastions of athletic accomplishment acknowledged the progress that has been made in competitive disabled sport.  Take off the kid gloves, establish some real standards or qualification races.  This would create elite events for disabled athletes to aspire to.  We want that as much as anybody else.  If I wear a Boston Athletic Association jacket from the race, or an Ironman World Championships finisher t-shirt I want to be able to say I earned it - by racing, not by writing.

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Chad in the AZ Desert said...

Well said. I think that day is going to come. Initially, nobody thought that a PC athlete could even do these races. Then when a couple finally did, it was looked at as extraordinary. We are now reaching a point where people are seeing that it can be done by large numbers of PC athletes and at some point that is going to bring with it exactly what you are talking about. Boston used to be open to anyone. I would need to run a 3:10 marathon to quality now. I'm a long way from doing that, but I still dream that I will one day do it. Keep dreaming your dreams and racing with all your heart. The rest will take care of itself.

Chad in the AZ Desert said...

Oh, I have to admit one other thing. I didn't even realize that you were a PC athlete the first few times I read your blog. You just a damn fast racer...and you still are. Keep up the good work!

PC Ironman said...

OK, so interesting that you write about Kona in your blog. Every year since 2004, I have written to the Kona peeps to ask them to let me get in the lottery as a PC athlete. The first year they said I wasnt PC enough because I have all my limbs and I no longer require a chair and the next year they stopped responding to me. This year, I wrote again with new vim and vigor and hope to hear a response soon. HOWEVER, if you and your pen can help get Les Autres into the PC category for any IM race, I would love your help and I know how much you like to write. Please help Obi Wan Kenobi, youre my only hope