What’s in a name?
I’m reading ‘Iron War’, the story of the 1989 Ironman championship and the battle between two of the greatest ever triathletes – but also a history of the spot of triathlon itself as it places the race in context.
The book tells the story of how Ironman got it’s name. It referred to the iron will needed by competitors to compete the challenging conditions of Kona in Hawaii. It wasn’t the fastest who would win, or the most physically capable, the winner instead was the one with the iron willpower to compete through draining heat and strength sapping head winds.
The name fitted the course – if not female competitors, is it not time for IronWoman? And, as such, it stuck.
But it struck me that many races have followed this template. They’re named after their defining characteristic. Usually the place the race takes place. The London Marathon. The Great Scottish Run. Or they describe the worst aspects of the course. Slateman refers to the slate covered hills of Snowdonia. Brutalfest has a series of races that are, well, brutal.
It’s human nature, it seems, to concentrate on the worst that could happen. All race organisers are pessimists.
I realised this while in Iceland this week on holiday. I was checking out all the tourist spots and I was reading the guides for each place and, in every one, they seemed to tell the same story. The name of the place was always the name of a tragedy that had happened there.
In the town of Borgarne, the bay was named after a man who was stoned to death on it’s shore. The waterfalls of Hraunfosser were named after the children who fell to their death. The entire country is basically a a cross between a OS map and a graveyard.
But what about the hundreds of people who played at the beach and enjoyed it’s soft sands and sheltering dunes? What about the children who paddled in the pool at the base of the waterfall and their children and their children and their children and their children and centuries of children all of whom called the falls “the really safe and not at all dangerous falls”, yet when one child said “hey, look at me, I can balance on one leg while standing right on the edge!” all the good times are forgotten.
As I said, it’s human nature. We’re pessimists. We remember the bad, not the good. The suffering, not the finish line.
And it’s time for a change. Who wouldn’t want to enter “Flatfest” or, better yet, “The Downhill Marathon”. Why should suffering be celebrated? Bring on “The Easy Peasy Triathlon”!