A funny thing happened on the way to the Fair. A few hundred athletes decided that it would be more fun to swim across a lake, pedal a bike down the road, and then run seven hot-and-hilly miles on a Saturday morning before hitting Mississippi’s Giant Houseparty. After all, who needs the comforts of an SUV when you’re spinning south on Highway 15 in July?
For these folks, the only way to get to the Neshoba County Fair is by way of the Heart O’ Dixie triathlon. And I am one of them.
Set a course for adventure
I’m quick to admit, though, that I race the Heart O’ Dixie the easy way — relay team. My leg of the race, the run, is tough, but it falls far short of the hard work solo triathletes must do to cross the finish line after the swim-bike-run.
This race is one of the oldest triathlons in the U.S., and every summer, the Sertoma Club in Philadelphia and its sponsors put on a wonderful event. People from around the country are drawn to the challenging course and the Southern hospitality.
Volunteers along the course are part of what makes the Heart O’ Dixie special. This year, the guy who passed us towels drenched in ice-cold water just as we started another climb was a hero to many.
The reasons for undertaking the race are different for each of the entrants. It might be the simplicity of a good challenge: race from points A and B to C, and the fastest one there wins. Or maybe we’re running away — or toward — something. It might be that elusive runner’s high. Whatever the reason, you won’t make it unless you’ve shaped up and put in the training.
Long term, that training, and the positive effects it can have on fitness and health, is probably the most important motivator.
Out you go
Mississippi’s high rate of obesity has been well documented. We are too fat. We stuff ourselves full of unhealthy foods. We don’t exercise nearly enough. And while there is no shortage of people and programs attacking this crisis in our state, a healthy serving of personal responsibility is also in order.
It’s up to you to get off the couch. It’s up to you to say no to that buffet. It’s up to you to change.
Looking for the starting line? Talk to your physician, set a few fitness goals and get going. Before you know it, you’ll be running or riding through the heat, humidity and hills of a Mississippi summer, too.
And loving every mile of it.
Don’t miss the August-September issue of Healthcare Mississippi in this week’s MBJ. In-depth coverage continues in section B.
Contact MBJ editor Jim Laird at firstname.lastname@example.org.