Sport has always been a spectacle. The effort being put into becoming more precise, more agile, and more powerful is awe-inspiring in the way athletes train their bodies to perform at a level much above the average human being. For years, there has been a certain authority and praise that is given to those people deemed exceptional and this can be seen all-throughout our history as a culture, and even as a species. The ancient Romans cheered for their gladiators, where men demonstrated their worth by defeating countless opponents and animals under incredible odds. The greeks had the Olympics, where people from far-spread areas met to compete in a show of of skill and talent.
In more recent times, the impact of physical prowess on our society has, at first glance, seemed to have died down. There has been a downhill slope in man’s need to do physical work, and the effect of this decrease can be seen in how, as a whole, humanity is no longer at the same physical level as the past. Despite this, the praise that was received by the Romans, and by the Greeks is still an active part of modern society, and interestingly, it is also given towards similar competitions. The Olympics, for one, has lasted hundreds of years with the same focus on the mastery of multiple sports, and now has countries from all over the world taking part.
This deep-rooted passion of people towards the physical art of sports led me to write about what was one of the most inspiring feats of human endurance and determination. Last August 4, 2012, I was able to support my stepfather in the most prestigious triathlons in the world, the Ironman. It was held in Cebu, taking the triathletes 1.9 kilometers across the sea, 90 kilometers over the hills and roads through bike, and transitioning into a 21 kilometer run to the finish.
The hotel we stayed at was filled with athletes from all over the world, each with a different level of preparation. My stepfather told me interestingly that for some, this was the race they have been training for all year, but for the elite triathletes, this was merely one of the races that they participate in to train for even longer events. It is interesting to realize how hotels themselves have become a structure where separate beings converge and live in unison, the idea of it and how society has developed amazes me especially with seemingly-mundane things like this.
The island of Cebu and the people who lived in it were all aware and very supportive of the event. Families looked out their windows and moved to certain areas to get a better view, cheering the athletes as they zipped by. The support shown by the locals were dwarfed significantly by the thousands of families that came to encourage their fathers, mothers, siblings, sons or even friends. People came in the hundreds, and pictures were taken by the thousands. Media coverage was very prominent before, and especially during the race. There were small unmanned helicopters that were specially made to hold a camera, and these were used to shoot them as they swam across the open sea.
On race day, the incredible amount of spectators cheered all day as the athletes tested their training going from event to event. Seeing a person come out of the swim with only one leg left me in awe, and inspired me with the dedication and strength on display. There was a feeling of community as the groups would clamor for racers that they cared about, each person knowing about the hardships that the 1000 racers have been through. I noticed how the groups would shout as one to fortify the less-prepared athletes, helping them feel stronger with every extra step. I could see how the bond between athletes created a sense of sportsmanship that could be felt even as a viewer. Despite the importance of every second when it comes to a race, the faster athletes sometimes slowed down to check on the more fatigued ones.
Even the area itself was changed to be better suited for the event. Entire streets were closed to allow room for the runners and bikers, and also because of how there was a visible effort to keep their safety. Major brands were sponsoring the event, and the funds that they provided helped achieve the high quality of the event. Each turn was properly labeled and there was a good attention to detail. As the racers were only completely visible during the swim and in the transition areas to the bike and run, the event kept families busy with multiple events surrounding the area. There were buildings that held stalls selling sports gear, cooking food, providing massages, and even giving haircuts. An understanding of what people do was something that i observed in the way the organizers decided to layout the event.
One interesting aspect to the race was how most runners, both foreign and local proudly showed their flags on their tri-suits. This pride for their country makes one think about how representation in the olympics becomes the impressive idea that it is. An entire country’s representative is this one being. The diversity in it was surprising, and each tri-suit had its own cultural flair, be it from the design, to the colors chosen, there was an influence that was visible in the way the racers dressed themselves and wanted to project themselves.
My stepdad’s friend finished the line before he was able to, but the excitement that his family and ours had for him was still one that made everyone feel proud. He said that my stepdad was on his way, and a few minutes later, I see him run to the finish, with the announcer saying his name on the sound system, and the crowd cheering for him. The happiness he felt was indescribable, i felt his satisfaction as he walked down the podium. He was still around the athletes and the bond they all shared through joining the event was easy to see because he was talking and sharing experiences with athletes who were very well known in the field. The way the event united thousands of people is incredible.
They say man is a social being, and that must be the case. The sheer number of individuals participating in one contest, but still being selfless enough to cheer for strangers and to check on fellow competitors is jaw-dropping. So much has happened since the times of the Romans, but we still appreciate the commitment and perseverance that was a large point of why they loved their athletes as well. It allowed people who would have otherwise never met to share a moment and interact. The praise they get for the things they do is well deserved and the intense training they went through boggles the mind. The way man creates goals elevates him to a level not seen in any other living being. This event took months, and even years for some to build up to. The word inspiring could not explain what it was like to be there to see the triathletes, each of them going beyond what is normal to pursue a goal and a passion that we somewhat lost association with in this modern age.