In 1982, Julie Moss, at the time a graduate student in California, decided, as part of her exercise physiology thesis, she would compete in an Ironman Triathlon. That’s a two-and-a-half mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and then…a marathon. She’d never trained before. She figured she’d run the race and see what happened. She’d write something up about the affects of it on her body. And that would be that.
Turns out, she was really good. She was a born athlete and she found herself in the lead. She was in the lead! She was winning the Ironman. Then, about two miles before the finish – still in the lead – Julie Moss’s legs gave out. She collapsed from dehydration and sheer exhaustion. She stood back up. In the video, in all it’s 80s glory, she looked like a baby giraffe, not totally sure which direction her joints were supposed to bend. It’s really hard to watch. But she gets back up. And she gets back up again. And again. She said, from the ground, she saw a pair of sneakers pass by. The person behind her passed her. She crawled to the finish line.
I heard an interview recently with Julie Moss. She said the voice in her head said one thing, “Get up. Get up.”
That voice didn’t say, “I can’t. I couldn’t possibly. Take. Another. Step.” That voice didn’t say, “You didn’t train! What were you thinking?! You’re clearly not qualified!” I know there are areas of challenge in my life where I’m probably preventing myself from success by saying, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not qualified. I don’t have the training…” Oh, yes. I have heard that.
Julie Moss just did her very best, and her best was enough. She became known for her never-give-up finish in the 1982 Hawaii Ironman.
Here is the Radio Lab episode where I first heard about Julie Moss.