A thunderous applause ripples through the crowd as the clock strikes 12. It has been 12 hours since Simon Hibbs began his Ironman challenge, his legs are weak, and his muscles are at the end of their tether. He passes the finish line, a picture of his late friend Andrew Meadows in his hand. They had run this race together.
Andrew Meadows passed away in April 2014 from a rare genetic form of cancer. To honour his memory his best friend Simon competed in the Ironman event as an opportunity to raise funds to find others a cure.
“I had entered the Melbourne Ironman prior to Andrew's diagnosis purely to challenge myself,” Simon said. “However around the time of Andrew's initial diagnosis he posted a comment on my Facebook page which changed the whole nature of my Ironman experience.”
Simon uploaded a status on Facebook that detailed his training for the event, underneath Andrew wrote, “I’m right there next to you mate, running alongside you on the inside.”
This remark inspired Simon to use the event as much more than a physical challenge and he pledged to help others who may be facing the same diagnosis as Andrew. He went on to raise $3,700 for the Institute.
The Ironman consists of a gruelling 3.8km swim, 180km ride and 42km run with a maximum time limit of 17 hours to complete the event. Simon spent 12 months preparing for the event, logging countless kilometres in all three disciplines.
“My primary objective for the race was always to finish healthy and smiling,” Simon said. “The race requires bravery, determination and demands that you focus on that which is directly in front of you, to persevere no matter how tough it gets. I was acutely aware of the fact that Andrew had called on all these traits and had shown unbelievable levels of courage in dealing with the hand that he was dealt.”
Simon carried a personal item of Andrew’s with him throughout the gruelling race. “One of the small things I did to mark Andrew's presence was to have a hat made for me and my supporters to wear,” Simon said. “The last 7km were the toughest. But some of my triathlon friends had made a sign for me which featured a picture of Andrew and the quote from the Facebook quote which I took and ran through to the finish with, there was a lot of emotion.”
Simon isn’t sure if he wants to do another Ironman, he is comfortable with the knowledge that this one meant more to him than any other could.