According to Wiktionary - the internet's free dictionary - inspiration is defined as the act or power of exercising an elevating or stimulating influence upon the intellect or emotions. The Olympics, for example, are inspiring because it's the setting where so many athletes see their life's hard work and sacrifice come to fruition - sometimes in the form of a medal, sometimes just simply being there to participate is the icing on the already-delicious cake. Seeing things like that make you want to work harder, dig deeper, sacrifice that bowl of ice cream or extra hour of sleep to get that much closer to your goal.
Inspiration is watching someone progress from newbie to Ironman finisher. Inspiration isn't found simply in the result - it's found throughout the journey, making the result that much more impressive.
One of my friends and fellow triathletes, Kendra, won a race this past weekend. She won the age group race at Ironman New York City. While it's impressive in its own right, watching her journey to this point, from missing out on a Kona slot through miscommunication, through mere minutes, through mere seconds, through three other attempts at a slot, to being the first age group girl to cross the line by almost thirty minutes - THAT is true inspiration. Two years ago, she didn't know what Kona was. Through hard work, amazing focus, and perseverance, she gets to experience Kona firsthand this year and it couldn't have happened to a better person. Inspiration is seeing how dedicated she is to her family and how she does triathlon not simply for the joy that swimbikerun brings, but also to raise money for Multiple Myeloma, a cancer that her dad has been fighting for years. And it seems that everything Kendra does, it is done with a genuine smile.
So Kendra - thank you for being an inspiration to all of us. It's evident from looking at your wall on Facebook on August 11th, from hearing the awe in people's voices when they talk about your accomplishments, that you have inspired so many people. No, most of us won't be out there winning Ironmans simply by watching you (though winning through osmosis would be pretty awesome) - but I know I speak for more than just myself when I say that the excitement over your achievements has spilled over into training - making it a little easier to get out of bed and go to the pool when it's still dark, to push it just a little harder on that bike interval, and try to drop a few more seconds off my run tempo pace. Inspiration makes us all want to dream a little bigger, see if we can achieve what we previously thought was unattainable. And sometimes this inspiration is just what we need to take our game to the next level.