Learning From The Ironman
Expedition Therapy participated in a service project during the recent Ironman Race in St. George, Utah. Nearly two thousand athletes took part in this grueling all-day event.
A group of Expedition Therapy students and field staff crewed a hydration station, providing water and nutrition to the Ironman athletes during the 112-mile biking segment of the race, which came after their 2.4-mile swim and before their 26.2-mile run.
The students’ comments reflected the impact of this intense experience. Expedition Therapy student Peter F. stated, “Volunteering for the Ironman was a really interesting experience. The Ironman is the ultimate test of the individual's abilities, yet they still have a support structure of thousands of people. That was the most powerful message to me. It's a really strong metaphor for life in general, and how even the strongest people have a support structure they use when they need it. I have not been willing to use my support structure in the past because I thought it was a sign of weakness. Volunteering at the Ironman really hammered home the fact that it's not a weakness – it's a necessity if you want to keep moving forward. It was also a great example of what you can achieve if you put your mind to it.”
Expedition Therapy Student Taylor A. was also affected by his participation: "The Ironman competition was an amazing thing to watch and be a part of. It was almost surreal to watch so many incredible athletes pushing themselves to the limit. Something that blew my mind was that all these individuals were doing the Ironman for themselves. They did not need any external gratification to push themselves. In my own football and track experience, external gratification from fans cheering me on was the fuel that helped me push myself. As I look back on this, I realize that I needed that external gratification to feel good about my performances and myself. After experiencing the Ironman, I realized my lack of internal gratification. It will be something I work on while at Expedition Therapy."
The Expedition field staff were also stirred by the magnitude of the Ironman. Expedition Field Instructor and Service Coordinator Jackie L. commented, "I was fascinated by the whole event. The energy from the announcers, the volunteers, and the athletes was contagious. It was inspiring to see people from all walks of life competing in such an elite event. There was a community feeling of 'everyone matters' and the effort put in by the Expedition Therapy group was appreciated."
“Being there really sparked our students’ interest,” added Jackie. “It got them thinking, comparing what they consider to be hard on the trail to what they were witnessing these men and women, many of whom balance training with careers and families, do in a single day. They got into supporting the athletes, helping them out with fresh water, calories and even laughs, as Peter comically yelled "BANANAS!" to cheer up and pass energy to the bikers on their home stretch.” 
“I am thankful that Expedition Therapy could be a part of this challenging event. It motivates me to think that what seems impossible right now could become possible by making a choice and committing to it, and that the sacrifices along the way make reaching the goal that much sweeter.”
Service projects like this are an integral part of the Expedition Therapy curriculum. Our other projects include volunteering at animal shelters, cleaning up and maintaining national park sites, and many more opportunities for Expedition Therapy students to “give back” and fully understand the significance of service, as well as what it feels like. This is an essential part of what it means to be an adult and fully participate in the world.
Your Turn: What do you think about the value of service experiences in the lives of young adults? What other types of service projects have you experienced or participated in? Your comments below are welcome.