Archive for Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wristen: Shawnee is a community of athletes

July 13, 2011

Maybe it’s your neighbor or the man down the street.

Maybe it’s the mother you’ve seen jogging down the sidewalk while pushing a stroller in front of her.

Perhaps it’s that kid you used to see riding his bike through the neighborhood.

Most likely you haven’t envisioned many of them as superior athletes, rather as people out to have a little fun or simply trying to live a little healthier.

The truth, though, is that we are a pretty healthy community. Yes, obesity rates nationally are rising and many people’s idea of playing sports is managing a fantasy football team rather than actual physical activity, but we have hundreds of impressive athletes here.

No, they don’t all possess the strength of an NFL linebacker, the vertical leap of an NBA star or the speed of a world class sprinter, but on the local level we have some serious competitors who aren’t afraid to compete against themselves to see just how good they can be.

I got an up-close view of it at the 27th annual Shawnee Mission Triathlon Sunday morning at Shawnee Mission Park.

More than 560 athletes competed in either the long course (1,000-meter swim, 18-mile bike ride, 4.5-mile run) or short course (500-meter swim, 9-mile bike ride, 2.4-mile run) under the hot summer sun.

People of all ages, skill levels and body types tested their limits on a scenic but challenging course.

In events like this, it’s more about proving to yourself that you can do it than about winning.

The participants at the Shawnee Mission Triathlon put their best foot forward on Sunday, and all of them — regardless of how fast they went or how gracefully they looked while doing it — were inspiring to see.

Of course, triathlons aren’t the only places local athletes have challenged themselves. The Kansas City area has a massive road running community. There’s even a vibrant trail running community with runners who challenge themselves at distances from 5 kilometers to 100 miles and beyond. For example, Shawnee resident Stuart Johnson — one of the area’s most experienced endurance runners — regularly tackles 100-mile races.

Even cyclists have a chance to thrive with the popular Tour de Shawnee ride for the past 21 years. The 22nd annual ride will take place Aug. 28.

There’s nothing easy about a triathlon, a bike race or endurance run, but this is a community that isn’t afraid to challenge itself at all of these events.

We might not be the strongest or fastest, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that we’re a community of people striving to be the best athletes that we can be.

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