When it comes to endurance events that push even the world’s best athletes to their limits, there’s perhaps no more famous race than the IRONMAN World Championship. For over four decades, athletes have gathered on the shores of Kona-Kailua, Hawaii, to test the boundaries of their abilities by completing a 2.4-mile open water swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. The IRONMAN mantra, “Anything is possible,” is exhibited over and over again in the courageous athletes that travel the 140.6-mile journey in the ultimate test of mind, body and spirit.
Every year, ACTIVE Network gets to send one deserving athlete to the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona. This year, employee Remi Williamson was selected to represent ACTIVEx in Kona on October 12, 2019. Williamson has been with the ACTIVE family for almost three years and perfectly embodies ACTIVE’s mission of making the world a more active place. A seasoned marathon runner, Williamson began her tri career in 2017 after her running friends introduced her to the sport. She began by dabbling in triathlon, completing a handful of sprint-distance races before signing up for the Austin half IRONMAN in October 2017, just a few months after her first sprint race. “I had a lot of life stuff going on at the time,” Williamson says. “It was a horrible time for me to pick.” And yet, just six months after competing in Austin, Williamson toed the line at IRONMAN Texas.
During her IRONMAN Texas race, Williamson adopted the ACTIVE mantra: Adapt and move forward. “That’s the thing that stuck in my training,” she says. “Things happen, injuries happen so adapt.”
After IRONMAN Texas, Williamson took on IRONMAN Santa Rosa on May 11, 2019. By this point she’d learned of her chance to race on the Big Island. But she’d also experienced some devastating losses, including the death of her mom in October 2018 and the passing of a good friend in January 2019 on top of injuries, surgeries and the loss of her beloved dog—the hits kept coming. The losses shook Williamson to her core. “I began to doubt my abilities,” she says. “My training was derailed several times, and I found myself angry, wondering why I ever agreed to this outrageous challenge only to let my biggest fans—my family, friends and co-workers—down.”
She considered backing out of Kona and wondered if this just wasn’t her time. When her brother was paralyzed in a car accident just a month before the race, it “turned [her and her family’s] whole life upside down.” As a result, a lot of family that had planned to travel with Williamson to Hawaii had to back out. But Williamson says that through it all, “it was a lot of life stuff that motivated me to keep going… I’m running and pushing myself, not necessarily for [my family], but they’re the motivation behind it,” she says. “We’re all very close, and we’ve had a lot happen… despite what I do performance-wise, [Kona] is my victory lap and my family’s victory lap.”
Williamson says she arrived at Kona with “100 percent nerves and 1,000 percent thankfulness” and decided that no matter what happened on race day, she would have fun, represent ACTIVE well and, above all else, she would not quit.
Although the race ultimately did not go as planned and Williamson was pulled from the course after missing the bike cutoff at mile 98 by 2 minutes, she says she is proud of her first DNF (Did Not Finish). “I’m proud of my grit, and I’m proud of my grace,” she says. “My grit clawed me to the start line and my grace allowed me to smile at an unfinished race because sometimes, life happens.”
And let’s not forget, every year there is a new Kona. Williamson says she’ll strive to qualify for the race in the future so that she can race on the biggest stage with her family by her side. “I want to [qualify again] so they can go back,” she says.