If you don’t know anyone competing in Sunday’s second annual IRONMAN 70.3 Ohio, don’t sweat it.
There are plenty of pretty cool people worth making the trip to Delaware State Park beach (where the race starts at 7 a.m.), Selby Stadium (where it finishes) or any of the course’s 70-plus miles.
The field ranges from athletes age 18-78. Annalise O’lear, an 18 year old from Ashland, is the youngest registered competitor while Luise Easton, 78, from Olmsted Falls, is the oldest.
As for those in between, they offer up some pretty inspiring story lines.
Michael Mendoza, 38, from Mokena, Il., for example, is attempting to break the Guinness World Record for most IRONMAN 70.3 races completed in a single year. His mark currently stands at 23.
That’s not all, though. More importantly, he’s running, swimming and biking to improve the lives of the many service members who have returned home to an entirely different fight than the one they left overseas.
Mendonza, who served in the United States Maine Corps, had multiple deployments where he was severely injured, earning the Purple Heart and The Navy Cross. His goal is to raise money for wounded and injured service members through the Semper Fi Fund to help them recover from PTSD, depression, anxiety and insomnia through sport and recreation.
Like the comeback story? Crista Raymond, 28, of Reading, Pa., is your lady. While training for a marathon six years ago, she was in a motorcycle accident. Her knees were so badly damaged she was told she’d never run again.
That’s not quite the way things worked, though. Raymond, through pure perseverance, ran her second half marathon, first marathon and first IRONMAN 70.3 last year. She said 2016 was about finishing. This year, it’s about improving.
Jennifer Grosshandler, 50, from Highland Park, Il., is racing for the GenderCool Project — a foundation that she’s launching to raise awareness of gender-different children throughout the world. She’ll be racing on behalf of her transgender daughter, Chazzie, who is 10.
The list goes on and on.
Scott Warner, 53, from Canton, started endurance running, swimming and cycling to cope with the loss of his son in the Iraq War. Warner is part of Team Red, White and Blue, and will wear blue when he competes in honor of his son.
John McCoy, 65, from right down the road in Gahanna, is competing to train for the IRONMAN Louisville in October. He was diagnosed with thyroid and prostate cancer in 2015 and, as of January of this year, is free of thyroid cancer. He continues to endure treatment for prostate cancer and says he fully intents to kick cancer’s butt.
Kim Beagley, 55, from St. Marys, Pa., started her IRONMAN journey shortly after receiving a kidney transplant. Her donor aspired to be an IRONMAN, but saw his chances delayed for a few years because of the transplant. He did finally reach his goal, inspiring Beagley to do the same. She hopes one day they’ll be able to cross the line together.
Finally, Jeannine Davidson, 50, from right here in Central Ohio, is competing in her first IRONMAN 70.3 after losing 205 pounds.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.