By Ron Adkins
Heart of America Triathlon News
A great joy of triathlons is encountering extraordinary people who lace up for these races. These people know full well they will never get rich or famous racing. They do it to fulfill a personal goal, to tick off a bucket list item, or to run in honor someone else.
Sandy Campbell of Palatine, Illinois, is one such person. She considers herself a “late bloomer,” since she didn’t take up racing triathlons until she was 60.
Now, at age 71, this late bloomer is a veteran, having crossed the finish line more times than many competitors half her age. “I started doing half a dozen a year,” she says, “but now I’m up to maybe twelve every season.”
Sandy’s most recent accomplishment was a strong finish in the 2014 Camp Courageous Tri Sprint, where she posted a 1:48:37. It was her second time at Camp Courageous.
“I’ve done two Olympics,” says Sandy, “but the rest of my races have all been sprints.
She became interested in the sport because her son, Erik, raced triathlon. He eventually coaxed her from cheering him on to competing with him in local races.
And while she’s a great fan of triathlons and a very vocal cheerleader, there are certain parts Sandy could do without. “I hate running,” she laughs. “I love swimming and I love biking.”
Her absolute favorite aspects of racing, she adds, are the people she meets and the cause that gives her the energy to compete.
“You get to meet so many nice people,” says Sandy, who has made a lot of good friends by getting to know them at races.
The most fulfilling part of it all, she says with a big smile, is her association with I Run 4. This international organization matches runners with “honorary runners” – men and women who, because of a disability or disease, is unable to compete. “You get out and race in their honor,” says Sandy, “then you send them any medals or awards.”
Racers often compete in special t-shirts honoring their match and then send photographs showing that they are there in spirit and were an inspiration. The result, says Sandy, is that racer and honorary runner are motivated to greater accomplishments. It is also an excellent way to raise awareness of disabilities of all types.
With her son and her honorary runner to give her motivation, Sandy says she has no plans to retire from triathlons any time soon.
She’s just getting warmed up.