Reflecting on the Points Challenge
The Platte River Fitness Series became a "series" to provide more incentive and motivation than the three original races could provide. For the first few years of the James O'Rourke Memorial Triathlon, area athletes would diligently prepare for the late April event. They would train faithfully, work on swimming techniques or their cycling acumen, and many ran enough to lose weight and begin to feel better.
Unfortunately, once the race was over, too many of them hung up their goggles, put their bike back in the garage, and the training programs they had been so faithful to collected dust "until next year." I desperately tried to come up with a plan that would better teach the lifestyle values of regular exercise and a healthy diet. If one event was motivating, what if we linked them together, and made participating in them a competition as well?
The original PRFS had seven events, as our community responded to the work of our initiative — quite a jump from the original three. I had no idea how to develop a fitness series, but I did know that I wanted it to inspire people to make their health a year-round mission. Participation needed to be the cornerstone. There is a place for everyone, big or small, young or old. If we wanted people to adopt an active lifestyle, it was critical to let them know that their effort to do so was celebrated by their entire community.
I also thought it important to reward excellence, and to do so in a way that acknowledged and affirmed gains in fitness and athletic performance. We had to have placing points as well. I also wanted to provide another motivator to incentivize athletes to continue to train and be fit every day, so we added the distinction of Platte River Fitness Series Finisher. It became this wonderful mosaic of motivational tools that anyone could use to "build a strong body and bold spirit". Everyone is an athlete.
The Platte River Fitness Series Points Competition is and always will be free to all athletes. While some athletes thrive on seeing how many races they can do, it is possible to finish in the top 10 of ones age group and participate in just a few. I wanted to encourage and teach through the requirements necessary to achieve the finisher distinction. Requiring participation in a multisport event encourages cross-training. Athletes who participate in only one type of exercise eventually receive less return on their fitness investment.
Our miraculous bodies get very good at one activity, and adapt, so that over time, we become so efficient that we burn fewer calories. Boredom is also a reason often given as to why people discontinue an exercise program. We seek lifelong fitness and improved longevity, and multi-sports keep workouts fresher, and minimize injuries that can develop with repetitive singular exercise. The addition of the adventure race had more to do with the maxim of "building bold spirits." Adventure racing can be extreme, the arena for only the exceptionally fit. The adventure racing in the PRFS is tailored to all abilities while still moving people from their comfort zone. "Life," the saying goes, "begins at the end of your comfort zone."
I wonder at how engaged people become in the points competition. The wonder is the beautiful way they come to see that the real competitor they face is themselves. While they are very focused on the leader board, it really becomes about developing, maybe for some for the first time, a true belief that they are more than they thought they were. Each athlete is stronger, braver, more resilient than they knew. They are learning that these qualities were there all along, and that finding them makes us more confident and more capable in all areas of our life. I did an unofficial survey after the 2013 season about the continued relevance of the PRFS in the lives of its athletes. We had ample races to attend, so maybe we don't really need the points competition. Each athlete had the same message to me, "It is ALL about the points."
If the PRFS keeps just one person moving forward, I am good with that.