You Don’t Have To Kill Yourself To Win

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

Sometimes I wonder what is going on in the heads of people who find this kind of stuff inspirational.

This video shows Julie Moss crawling across the finish line to take second place in the Ironman competition. She keeps falling and none of her coaches or anyone else with her has the sense to just tell her that she needs a doctor. No race is worth injury. What is the matter with runners when they find performances like this inspiring?

Guess what, you don’t have to kill yourself to win in the game of life.

So many of us see productions like this from ABC Sports and think that we have to go overboard just to live a healthy life. We don’t need to crawl across the finish line. We need to make the small and healthy decisions every day. Life isn’t a race. It’s a journey. If your body is shutting down from the competition, you shouldn’t keep crawling across the finish line. You get help. Julie Moss shouldn’t be held up as a hero for crawling in second. Kathy McCartney should have been held up as the hero for pacing herself well enough to finish strong.

Via: Via YouTube: Julie Moss Competing in the 1982 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon » Complete Running Network


18 Responses to “You Don’t Have To Kill Yourself To Win”

  1. Karla Says:

    I see your point, I really do, and it’s a good one. I actually remember this event even though it was more than 20 years ago, because my family was big on watching sports events, and my brother (a former Olympic athlete) has competed in the Ironman competition.

    But she didn’t “kill herself” and she didn’t even need a doctor– she was exhausted and dehydrated, and she needed rest and water. I think you are overstating it to say that she “killed” herself or that her coaches should have gotten her a doctor. The coaches of competitive athletes are well trained in the difference between exhaustion and a real medical emergency. She didn’t have a real medical emergency, and it seems to me that it is perfectly acceptable for her to continue the race.

    What I like about this story is that it shows incredible determination (rather than just giving up) and I also like that it stands for the importance of finishing (rather than winning) a race. I do find those things inspirational, and I don’t think I’m wackadoo for that. I’m all for people setting their goals and completing them, without giving up. After all that work of the swimming, biking, and running– I can’t even imagine how disappointed and upset I’d be if I gave up 20 yds before the finish line. Even if I had to crawl.

    As I’m pretty sure you’ve said before (especially when criticizing a running coach for pushing participants to set a time rather than just race a number of days ago), athletes and fitness exercisers have different goals and needs, and that should be respected. I can understand why you might not find Julie Moss’ crawling finish inspirational, but I don’t think it’s necessary for you to denigrate those who might.


  2. Mark Says:

    Well said, Karla.

    Yeah, sorry Laura but you’ve clearly crossed the line here into being insulting. That said, I will try to add something to the discussion.

    Laura, at this level of competition, athletes do almost have to kill themselves to win. That’s the point in events such as the marathon – to push the limits of human endurance. And guess what? The athletes live to run another day without negative long-term effects. They don’t die. They suffer for a few days after maybe, but that’s it.

    So why do many runners find this kind of thing inspirational? Because for anyone who has pushed their own limits — they are amazed at the mind-boggling abiliity of people like Julie to put mind over matter. Seeing what they can push through inspires us to push ourselves further than we thought we could.

    I recall you being critical of me when I pushed myself to nearly throwing up. This is exactly the same thing. I pushed myself to a new level and I learned a bit more about what I was capable of. And nothing bad happened to me.

    A human being’s ability to physically push themselves in this manner spills over into the rest of their lives. I can only imagine the confidence Julie has in her daily life after doing what she did at IronMan. I bet she is an unstoppable force in whatever she sets her mind to.

    You are welcome to your opinion, Laura but it would be nice if you were a bit more respectful of the opinion of many other people who have a very different purpose and understanding of what running is, and what it can teach them in the rest of their lives.


  3. jeanne Says:

    Thanks for posting that video, it’s awesome! i’ll never get tired of seeing it.

    Let’s remember that back then, we didn’t know half of what we know now about sports nutrition. I read an article on Julie Moss that said she did this race eating only bananas and water. Can you imagine?? There were no powerbars, no sports drinks then. They hadn’t been invented yet.

    I think what she did was absolutely heroic.

  4. Laura Moncur Says:

    Mark and Karla,

    The problem with these videos is that it gives “normal” people the idea that the only way to be thin and fit is to push yourself to the limit of exhaustion. That’s NOT true.

    To be healthy, thin and fit, all you need to do is exercise regularly and eat healthy food in moderate portions.

    You don’t need to compete in an Ironman, much less crawl across the finish line.

    In that video, there were at least five people surrounding Julie Moss. If all she needed was water and rest, at least one of them could have given her a cup of water. More importantly, she might have been able to finish stronger if she had paced herself like McCartney did.

    Holding Moss up like a hero is wrong. She pushed herself too hard. Running so hard that it injures you should be considered a disease like anorexia, not a habit to emulate.


  5. Mark Says:

    I believe your opinion is wrong.

  6. John Says:

    It is pretty weird that you have this woman that falls down from exhaustion multiple times, has the crowd helping her get up (even though she may not have wanted it) and she’s marked as a hero, yet the other woman who passed her, still on her feet and moving at a good pace, is ignored.

    I’m more than happy to cheer for the underdog, and I’m glad she found the strength to finish, but she was definitely the rabbit that got passed by the tortoise.

    Hopefully she learned some self-control from this…

  7. Mark2 Says:

    “The problem with these videos is that it gives “normal” people the idea that the only way to be thin and fit is to push yourself to the limit of exhaustion.”

    I don’t think this is an accurate appraisal of the average person’s thoughts, and I don’t think it’s really the athlete’s problem or responsibility even to the extent it may be true for some observers.

    I think you exaggerate the danger to her health. And to many people, life isn’t a Pleasant Valley Sunday suburban existance. They take all kinds of risks, in sports, for adventure in travel, or for scientific advancement in using themselves as guinea pigs.

    There’s room for everybody to live their own lives. If you want to drive a Volvo, go ahead, but those who don’t deserve to be cut a little slack.

  8. Picture It: Says:

    Wow! That was hard to watch. However, I remember receiving my medal around my neck and still believe to this day that the “exhaustion” was worth it.

    What was worth it: Beating my “younger” sister across the finish line…..PERIOD !

    P.S. I would have crawled across that line if it meant beating my sister and I would have had a great story to tell for years around the coffee table.

  9. Autumn Says:

    She collapsed because she depleted the glycogen stores from her muscles and liver. Her body was literally fighting to create the energy she needed to keep going. She was exhausted, yes, but she just wasn’t getting enough nutrition.

  10. Braidwood Says:

    Ohh… After reading everyone’s comments I was like, yeah! It is inspirational to push your boundaries! Go, go go! But after watching the video, I’m with Laura. I just found that freaky, not inspirational.

  11. sara Says:

    So insparational. Competitive athletes don’t just “do it to be thin”, they do it for the competition, the love of seeing how far you can go, beating people. Not to be thin. So don’t say that it’s causing people to “think they have to kill themselves to be thin” sports aren’t all about being thin. Take this video for what it is-an athlete that never gave up.

  12. James Says:

    In my opinion, Laura’s original assertion was way off base and Mark and Karla hit the nail dead on the head. Most other comments here also understand what’s involved in completing grueling endurance events.

    Athletes – elite or typical – enter Ironman to challenge themselves, not to be thin for crying out loud. That challenge can dehydrate and disorient you. Many people miss the cutoffs during the legs and lots do not finish.

    That this athlete somehow got through the numerous stumblings, didn’t quit and finished second, is nothing short of miraculous and should be applauded.

    She didn’t nearly kill herself and had anyone lifted her up or helped her to the finish line she would have been disqualified.

    Coaches and people watching understand that, unlike the author of this post.

  13. Laura Moncur Says:


    You obviously didn’t watch the video. She had about five people around her picking her up. Not inspirational. I’m wondering if she even had a coach. If she did, the towel should have been thrown in.


  14. Pam Says:

    Wow! Julie was purely commited to her running. I think if i was in that situation i would keep going just because of everyone around me at the race egging me on. And what about the media? What would they say? It’s normal for people to be pressured in the society we live in today.

  15. Adrian Says:

    This has absolutely nothing to do with being thin and fit. If your goal is purely to be thin and fit you will find the very thought of an Ironman to be insane, who swims 2.4 miles, bikes 112 and then runs a marathon, who climbs Everest, swims the Atlantic, crosses the North Pole ? It is exactly that that makes us humans so successful, to refuse to accept the insane as being the impossible. We are people that seek to redefine our own boundaries, people who feel compelled to do these insane things because it gives us a deeper look into our own beings. It redefines our own potential and makes the impossible possible.

    Remember those were the days when people did Ironman, were fueled by only bananas and water, that was it, nothing fancy like today. Yes Julie screwed up, she realized she was ahead and maybe the thought of winning took control, maybe she did not hydrate enough maybe, maybe, maybe..who knows, who cares ? Isn’t that just how life works, how many times do any of us do anything in our lives where all goes smooth? I know people that participate in endurance sports that are in their 60’s, they still don’t know the ideal recipe to do it right and I am sure they never will, neither will any of us. The key is what you do when all else fails, for Julie, that day, that time, the thing to do was crawl, screw the rest of the world, at that point it wasn’t about first, second or 100’th it was about finishing it was about reacting to a body that was done, but a person that was not.

    Give people a little more credit, they are not so foolish to continue believing that pushing yourself to a point of exhaustion is the way to be thin and fit, and more so not because of Julie, no way !

    I salute Julie, it is people like herself and countless others, that encourage us normal souls that anything is possible. Each in our own way do we decide to push our boundaries, sometimes in dramatic ways like she did and sometimes on a quite and lonely run by doing that extra mile.

    Thanks Julie you are definitely one of my heroes!

  16. James Says:

    It IS insulting to make remarks like this about a courageous woman. And no YOU may not have to kill yourself to win the game of life, but someone had to so you could sit at a computer powered by electricity (discovered by a driven and possibly obsessive man), in a country founded by men and women dying in war, looking at a monitor that was developed by the countless obsessive and exhaustive hours of men and women driven to make life better and criticize someone elses attempt at fulfilling their dream. This video is a testament of human will. The same will found in all of the characters who are the ones that provided a foundation for our comforted lives. And being a triathlete myself, I know, she would have had to nearly killed herself in training just to finish an ironman, much less place 2nd. This does not infect or provide an unhealthy mindset for amateur athletes because a person who does this and is inspired by this already has a highly driven personality. Don’t worry it will not “infect” the “average” person. Let’s rise above and be inspired.

  17. Christian Says:

    Unless your a runner at this level of competition you have no idea what its like and you should stop talking right now whoever wrote the comments on the site because you have no idea what your even saying. Go back to your video games and stfu

  18. Andy Says:


    You must really like playing devil’s advocate. A lot.

Leave a Reply


Powered by WordPress
(c) 2004-2017 Starling Fitness / Michael and Laura Moncur