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Triathlon is an inherently silly sport. We dress up in spandex and punish ourselves through three events—not one, not two, but three. All for a shiny medal and the glory of the finish line.
Ah yes, the finish line. It’s what we train for, what we celebrate, and it can bring out the best in people. It can also bring out…other things. In that state of euphoria and exhaustion, unique quirks arise—some quirkier than others. There are almost as many different types of finishers as there are racers, but a few quirks float to the surface as the most common. Maybe I’m biased, since I’m guilty of many of these, but I don’t think we should be ashamed of our finish line foolishness. Instead, we should celebrate our uniqueness, and embrace the silliness of this sport we know and love. Declare loudly and proudly: Yes, I am a puker.
Which of these types of triathlon finishers are you?
- The Runner – If you have ever had the pleasure of volunteering at the finish line of a triathlon, you have likely encountered—or just missed—one of these finishers. You see them coming, running full speed toward the finish line. You have their medal at the ready, outstretched in preparation for the neck about to receive it. But something is amiss: the racer isn’t slowing down. They blow right by you. Perhaps they’re too sore to stop. Perhaps, in their delirium, they didn’t even see the finish line. Maybe they just don’t care. Like Forrest Gump at a football game, they just keep running!
- The Jumper – Lord knows where this athlete gets all their energy at the end of a long race, but regardless, they are going to slam dunk the hell out of that imaginary basketball, right into the finish line arches, come hell or high water or broken ankle.
- The Acrobat – Performing highly technical gymnastics movements while in a state of glycogen deficiency can be a perilous pursuit. Spectators cringe in anticipation of a heroic maneuver, or an epic fail. “Hey, I just finished a 140.6-mile triathlon. Maybe I should do a handstand.” But then again, you can pull it off, it might look pretty cool!
- The Diva – “Cheese pizza?” this finisher gripes after crossing the finish line. “CHEESE pizza??? How dare they not have pepperoni! I’ve worked hard and earned pepperoni pizza!” Chances are, this finisher is outraged whilst also being shouldered by volunteers on each side just in case they faint from lack of appropriate sustenance on the course. To be clear, there was plenty of nutrition on the course, but it wasn’t their specific type of nutrition. And the water was not sufficiently deionized for maximum performance, so they are complaining of dehydration as well. This finisher can—and does—find many faults while tri-stressed. But don’t confuse complaining with lack of appreciation for the volunteers. Shortly after reluctantly downing some cheese pizza, this racer will thank everyone on social media while posing with their shiny new medal. #gratitude
- The Oversharer – “I pooped myself at mile 15,” this finisher declares proudly as the volunteer removing her timing chip stares up in horror. “What else was I going to do? Stop at a port-a-potty? Gross!” Some finishers just can’t keep their war stories to themselves, and the oversharer especially will not hold back. No matter how embarrassing the situation may be, they will find victory in the most disgusting of triumphs.
- The Limelight Stealer – If you have ever witnessed the dramatic start of a professional wrestling match, as the wrestlers walk, no, swagger toward the ring, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Whether it’s Katy Perry blasting over the speakers or Neil Diamond, this racer will make that song their jam as they grandstand all the way down the finisher chute. All eyes must be on them as they high five, fist bump, and “ride the bull” to their glory. Once they finally do make it to the line (after what seems like hours in the chute), they will soak up that baby for all its worth, leaving a line of congestion behind them. Photo op? YES, PLEASE!
- The “Doesn’t Need Medical, but Demands it Anyway” Finisher – After a full day of trudging along on course, seemingly without too much of a problem, this racer suddenly collapses right as they cross the finish line. “I have the WORST blisters on my feet,” they cry. “I should probably get a wheelchair to the tent to get an IV. Is there an ambulance nearby?” Much like the Limelight Stealer, this finisher wants all the attention. But instead of being recognized for their glory, they want to be recognized for how much they broke themselves down—even if all they broke was a toenail.
- The “Definitely Needs Medical, but Insists They Don’t Need it” Finisher – Unlike the previous finisher, this finisher could be bleeding profusely from the forehead, slurring his speech, and insisting that Woodrow Wilson is still President, but don’t you dare take them to the medical tent. “I’ll walk it off” is their mantra. And walk they will, even if their leg was bitten off by a shark during the swim.
- The Hugger – The pandemic was really tough on this athlete. They just want to spread the love: the sweaty, stinky, salt-stained love. Besides the hugger, there are exactly zero triathletes who want to hug a sweaty stranger, but still, nobody is going to turn down a proud finish line embrace with this enthusiastic finisher, no matter how awkward it feels.
- The “Not Drunk but Looks Drunk” Finisher – We have all had that drunk friend we had to babysit in college. Some of us were that drunk friend. After a long, hard race, some of us become that drunk friend again. I mean, the comparison is eerie. If you see a person stumbling around barefoot, smelly, and half naked asking where they can find beer and nachos, how do you know if it’s a drunk person or triathlete?
- The Puker – If you don’t puke in a race, you didn’t push hard enough. If you puke during the race, you probably went too hard. If you puke at the finish line, you paced it just right. If you achieve that, be proud of yourself! Just also be considerate and find a trash can nearby, lest you unload 26 miles worth of Gatorade right onto the finish line.
- The “Kisses the Ground at the Finish Line” – Like an astronaut just returning from a moon landing, this triathlete is so happy to be done they ceremoniously bow down to kiss the sacred finish line carpet. Let’s hope this poor fellow doesn’t follow the puker.