Really, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Chrissie Wellington won this weekend’s Ironman Arizona. And she did it in world record time — 8 hours, 36 minutes, 13 seconds. All this after she was uncertain of her place in the triathlon world after she missed out on the world championships in Kona last month due to illness.
Wellington had dominated the marque race of the Ironman world for three straight years and was looking to tie the record for consecutive world champion titles this year. She withdrew the morning of the race citing illness. Turns out, tests showed she had a combination of strep throat, pneumonia and West Nile virus.
But even with that bit of information, Wellington feared a certain loss of stature.
“I felt like I’d lost my platform and no longer had a voice,” Wellington said in an article in the Arizona Republic. “I enjoyed using that voice to effect change.”
Wellington is involved in a number of charities and organizations, including the Blazeman Foundation, which raises money for ALS research, and GOTRIbal, an organization to help promote triathlon, athletics, health and wellness among women. (Full disclosure, I am a member of the GOTRIbal community.) For her, being a professional triathlete comes with an opportunity to use her status — her platform if you will — to talk about causes and issues of importance to her.
There is a thought that by pulling out of the Ironman World Championships, Wellington showed she was human.
Well, human for a period of time. That is until she smashed the world record and finished eighth overall in Arizona.
No, what makes Wellington human isn’t her triathlon performance, the likes of which the rest of us mere mortals just watch in awe. It’s her smile. It’s her drive. It’s her compassion. It’s her willingness to be an ambassador — for the sport, for women, for those with illness, for the human race.
To watch Wellington make a “comeback” in Arizona is inspiring, not because she fell from grace or lost her platform, but because she knew her life gave her such a platform. Her chosen career isn’t just about succeeding, it’s about growing something bigger, about using her stage to advance causes she was devoted to before she even registered for her first triathlon.
For some, Wellington is an athletic inspiration.
For me, she’s a happiness inspiration — someone who loves who she is and loves what she does.
And really, it is all that simple, no matter how fast she covers 140.6 miles.