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Why Telling Stories Outdo A Result Every Time

In the world of snippets and sound bites we can end up getting fed only the results of something. In sports that boils down to a race placing with splits and maybe a photo of the winner finishing. It’s very different than telling stories from the day.

Sometimes the greatest and most inspiring stories are found in the perseverance shown to keep going even when the real dream is impossible. IRONMAN World Championship 1984. Dave Scott won. Mark Allen finished 5th.

Yes, we can sound like a knowledge wizard the next day telling our training partners who won the Championship by what margin. But results are not a story. There’s no detail or emotion or understanding of the journey that unfolded to get that result. Reading results is like eating processed and refined foods. They lack anything of real substance. A result does not have the nutrients we get from a story. There’s no impact on our emotion or motivating nourishment for our own journey.

Telling stories on the other hand is full of human drama. They’ve got character. A story is rich with inspiration and emotion. It touches something inside and can spark a decision to do something new that can be life changing.

Debbie Meyer, winner of 3 Individual Gold Medals in the 1968 Olympics.

That happened for me in 1968 as I watched the Mexico City Olympics. I was mesmerized peering in on the distance swimmers. Debbie Meyer won the 800m and Mike Burton won the 1,500m, both being distances that completely blew my mind. How could a human being go back and forth like that? I could not even go one length across the pool without total exhaustion!

If I’d read the results of those races they would have been meaningless. But being glued to my television for what seemed like an eternity for both finals triggered something in me. It was watching races unfold and hearing the announcers telling the stories from the pool deck that sparked me to become a swimmer.

And it was that journey as a swimmer from age ten until I was twenty-two that gave me a huge cardiac engine. That then enabled me to make an entry into triathlons in 1982 with a step up on the fitness ladder.

And that journey started by seeing the Wide World of Sports coverage of the IRONMAN World Championship. One of the best storytellers of all time, Jim McKay, turned a crazy athletic thing into a sport with guts and heart. He brought out human drama and the triumph of spirit that we all know and expect from the IRONMAN journey.

A Twitter feed of results with a few photos could never have impacted me the same as telling that story of the IRONMAN. Reading the results of athletes finishing a race that for some took almost 17-hours was so far outside my concept of endurance, it wouldn’t have ever inspired me to do the IRONMAN. As a swimmer a race that took about 2-minutes was the longest endurance event I could really relate to! But hearing the stories being told of the IRONMAN athletes that year sparked a dream for me.

I’ve begun sharing stories from my career that have been tucked away in my memory banks for many years.

Peering in on a training session in the pool with Scott Tinley and Mark Allen.

My goal with each one has been to really tell the story, not just recount the chronology of the day. Those would be like expanded results. But racing is filled with moments no one else could ever know about unless the story was told. Results get our brain thinking and analyzing. Stories sink deep into our souls and fuel our dreams. They are the nuggets that inspire us all.

I’ve been incorporating telling stories into my newly designed website. Some of the highlights are in the section IMX12: My Stories From Kona. These are in-depth first hand accounts of my twelve IRONMAN World Championship races complete with never before told insights into both the struggles and the joy those years brought me. I am sure you will find some gold in each of them that you’ve never heard before! Then on top of that I’m always adding to my blog Stories From The Road where I share even more stories from all my years racing as well as thoughts on the stories unfolding right now in the sport. Enjoy!


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