What’s the purpose of sport?
It was a question that popped up in my Twitter feed this morning, posted by fellow Women Talk Sports blogger Ann Gaffigan.
“Entertainment is one,” she wrote. “What else? Inspiration.”
And immediately my mind turned to Shad Ireland.
My story on Shad ran in today’s edition of The Buffalo News. On its face value, Shad’s story is inspiring. He became the first person on dialysis to finish an Ironman, tackling the 2004 race in Lake Placid. After two failed kidney transplants he weight just 75 pounds. After watching television coverage of the Ironman World Championships, Shad wanted to try it. He thought the Ironman was insane, but felt called to do it.
His doctors laughed at him. But he he ended up weight 146 pounds at 6 percent body fat. And although he struggled on the bike and needed to walk the marathon, Ireland finished Ironman Lake Placid.
There of course is the story of his training — how he started one step at a time, going from being able to walk only two minutes on a treadmill to knocking out 8-minute miles. There are the challenges he still faces in training and racing as a dialysis patient, most notably how to fuel during the event as his body can not process foods the same way as someone with healthy kidneys.
His training and racing led him to create the Shad Ireland Foundation — an organization that helps support people with kidney disease, educate those waiting for transplants and helping others learn how to prevent the disease. It all, of course, has a component of physical fitness.
And while Shad will talk passionately about all those topics, what I found interesting was a brief mention about motivation and inspiration.
“Where does motivation come from?” Shad asked. “It comes from inspiration. That’s what got me across the finish line. And we all have the opportunity to give back to our respective communities.”
The implication — we can all be inspiration for each other. What may seem small to you may make an incredibly large impact on someone else.
But it also calls forth a new way to look at our lack of motivation. We all suffer from it. We all have days when we are just not in the mood.
So how do we change that around? Perhaps one way is to think of the people, places, events, dream that inspire us — that call us forward to step outside our comfort zone and live big.
Shad’s story is inspiring on more than one level. There’s his journey from a dialysis patient to an Ironman but there is also his journey from patient to advocate — a man given a few months to live who created an organization that is changing and improving the lives of others.
While the work is hard, the progression seems natural. It’s amazing what happens when you follow those crazy ideas that keep returning to you, keep inching you forward, keep inspiring you.
Because eventually, that inspiration will beget motivation which begets the first baby steps of action.
And who knows where life can lead after that.