“Do we argue with each other ’til we both turn blue or find similarities in what we like and what we do?”
Recently, there has been some serious bullying in the triathlon community– particularly against people like me. I have not directly received the bullying, but the comments being made could be extended to me and it honestly hurts.
The comments are against “Athena” triathletes– girls who weigh over a certain amount (I fit in this category, and I probably always will. Even at my fittest point in 2012 after Bike & Build I would have still qualified for Athena).
They are also against people who officially “DNF” a race. In Ironman races, there is a time limit. Due to different factors (namely swim wave start time), some people may be able to finish a course with their chip even though they went over the allotted time. The Ironman website, I believe, will give them an official “DNF” final time, but these people will still have times for all of the other disciplines. Other people may have their chip pulled and be allowed to finish the course. This is what happened to me in Augusta. My chip was pulled about 1/2 mile from the end (meaning I have no official run time on the website), but I still got to cross the finish line and receive my medal.
People think differently about this. Some people think that Ironman says you have 8 1/2 hours to finish a 70.3, so if you go above that time you did not actually -finish- the race. Some people think if you did the distance, you are a finisher. I think I am in the camp of “if you did the distance, and IRONMAN gave you a medal, then you are a finisher.” That’s how I feel about Augusta. But, regardless of any of this– I think all that matters is what a person determines for him or herself. I may see myself as a finisher. Someone else in the same position as me may refuse to get a medal, to wear their shirt, etc… And that’s okay. We can all decide for ourselves.
What is NOT OKAY is making people feel bad for what they decide for themselves. People created a group where they made fun of one particular girl who also DNF’ed Augusta (but did the distance, like me). It wasn’t me, but it could have been. And I feel so bad that this girl, who is strong and brave (even showing up to the start of a 70.3 is brave– for some people, even showing up to the start of a 5K is brave!), has had to experience this the past few days.
Luckily, for every mean, hateful person in the triathlon community there seems to be 20 more who are compassionate, kind, and supportive. And I am glad that support exists.
However, a part of me is scared. I am scared that I will show up at a race and someone will make a mean comment towards me about my weight, speed, whatever. I know that what anyone else thinks shouldn’t (and, honestly, doesn’t) matter, but that doesn’t mean that these negative experiences don’t affect me in a negative way, even if it only hurts for a millisecond before I can regain my positivity.
And, to be honest, this hateful language extends far beyond the triathlon community. I have seen it in my bullet journal community, for goodness sakes (people like to argue over what a “real” bullet journal is). And, obviously, Facebook is full of negativity given the discourse of this year’s presidential election.
A song by Kimya Dawson (Same Shit/Complicated) is helping me wrap my feelings around all of this. On one hand, we need to be compassionate and kind to each other. We do not know each other’s stories or experiences. While we can be compassionate and kind, we also need to stop tolerating hate. I have thought a lot about this recently, and I think the best way we can go about this is through restorative justice. Just punishing someone is not going to change anything. We need to provide people with resources that will help. We need to find a balance between not justifying, enabling, or excusing hateful behavior and providing compassion and kindness.
It is really hard to do this. But it is work that needs to be done.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep tri-ing– and surround myself with good, supportive people.