Shirin Gerami

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Yearly Archives: 2016

Reasons to swim, to bike, to run… to breathe.

It was a spectacularly beautiful day – crispy cold, deep blue sky, and the sun set the yellow autumn leaves and orange berries on fire. The journalist was twenty minutes late and I was making use of the opportunity to go for a run and clear my head before she arrived.

She had sent me a list of questions the night before. As I ran, I thought about one of the questions she had asked: why did I choose to represent Iran?  There are so many reasons for it – and it’s always so hard to express them in words. But this morning, one scene kept playing itself over and over again in my mind.

It was 2003 when a huge earthquake shook the centre ofHomeless 15 Iran – completely destroying Bam, one of the most ancient cities of the country, killing at least 30,000 people. It was one the most devastating earthquakes the country had witnessed. Bam, a once vibrant, historic city had turned into a complete ghost town:
the city turned into dust; and the people sitting on the rubbles, homeless, in shock, and mourning the loss of their loved ones. I joined a charity and started going to Bam in the hope of being of some use.

One of my cousins, Salar, joined us on one of these trips. One day, we were going from tent to tent, talking to the children and hearing their stories. It had been a night, just like all other nights, children sleeping in their houses with their parents and siblings. They woke up to their world falling on their heads, literally. The security they had always had, the world they had known, the people they had loved, sometimes their entire household… everything gone with the blink of an eye.

At the end of the trip, my cousin told me: ‘this is so hard to digest. These kids, they are the same age as you and me. They are just like you and me. Yesterday, they had everything: shelter, security, food, family. Yet, everything changed so suddenly overnight. A change in their lives in a way they could have never imagined.’ Salar’s comment kept replaying in my head as I was running this morning, over and over again.

On the surface, it’s hard to relate this to why I was thinking of this story as one of the reasons for why I represent Iran in triathlons. Something which I hope would eventually lead to the ability to share sports with those who currently can’t access it. It’s even harder to explain when you have a camera and microphone recording your every umm and err.

But experiences such as Bam are reminders that I have salar-bamso many blessings in my life, and that I’m no different in any way or form to those who don’t have the same privileges. I just happen to be born under a lucky star. It’s a reminder that everything that I take for granted today, can change completely in the blink of an eye. It is a reminder to make the most I can from the blessings I have today, and share them now, whilst I am still under that lucky star… for who knows what tomorrow may bring. It is the very very least I can do to show my gratitude.

I am by no means equating sports with basic necessities of life such as security, love and food – but it is a powerful tool that can bring joy and peace of mind (even if momentarily) in the direst circumstances of life. It is a celebration and/or creation of the mind and body that allows us to achieve our dreams and enables us to pull through difficult circumstances. Sharing the ability to access sports is only a droplet of an entire ocean of blessings I am privileged to have.

And then, tonight, I heard news of Salar. He had slipped and fallen down the fourth story of an apartment. His face smashed up, both of his arms and his rib cages crushed, and his lung punctured. Salar, who is always up for a good adventure and full of life no matter the circumstance. Salar, my cousin, my friend, someone so close to my heart.

And again, I hear his voice repeat in my head. ‘They had everything that you and I currently have…. Yet, everything changed so suddenly overnight.’ It’s such a hard way to remind me of that lesson, Salar. The lesson that today, I can do the things I can do, but tomorrow I may not have any of the ‘privileges’. ‘Privileges’ in brackets, because, frankly, I’m probably taking most of them for granted right now, failing to see them as a privilege – until one day, I loose them. It’s so easy to forget that I am not in a special, invincible bubble. That these sudden change of circumstances can happen to anyone, including me.

To run, to swim, to cycle, to play, to dance, to fly, to laugh, to hug, to love, to give, to breathe… whilst we still can. Privileges come and go, they are here for us to make the most out of them whilst they last. To share and multiply what we have so others can also access it, whilst we can. Who knows what we’ll wake up to tomorrow.

Salar azizam, we were planning so many adventures together this year… another Bradley adventure, back country skiing this winter? Get well soon. Karet daram. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Ironman Kona: Is Anything Possible?

Never had I imagined I would be racing Ironman Kona. To tell you this story I need to take you back to 2013; the lead up to my first race for Iran, the ITU World Champs in London. I went seeking permission to represent Iran in triathlons, when women were not yet sanctioned to do triathlons officially. Like all adventures, this is my story the way I remember it.

Flashback to four days before the ITU World Champs. I had just missed my flight to London since the decision on my permit was still pending. I was standing in the Iranian Sport Ministry. I wanted to know I had tried everything within my means to make this happen.

Surprised to find me in the ministry again, one of the authorities said she would tell me the brutal reality to spare me the heartache later. For my own sake, I should accept that it would be impossible to get permission in time for the race.

I could see the reason and logical to what she was saying. My own reason and logic begged me to give up. I had run around ministries, federations and clothing workshops non stop. I had flown thousands of miles hoping that a door would open. I was exhausted like never before.

But the quest was no longer one for permission to compete in a race. It was something much more personal now. I was questioning the fundamental beliefs and aphorisms that nurture us. Was it true that ‘nothing is impossible’; ‘where there is a will, there is a way’; ‘the sky is the limit…’?  Ultimately we must take that leap of faith and believe with all our might, despite all the intervening obstacles?

And what if I gave up now? How could I look myself in the mirror again and persuade myself to believe with all my heart, never giving up until I reached my goal? For the sake of daring to dream again in the future, for the sake of being able to face another challenge, I needed to keep believing. I had to keep trying.

I looked at the authority, totally lost for words. Eventually I spoke out. ‘For the sake of my beliefs, I need to keep trying.’ ‘I can’t tell you not to try,’ she said, ‘but there is nothing more we can do for you here.’ With that, she left me to deal with other business.

The night before the race found me in Hyde Park by the event venue, speaking to members of the ITU. It was 9pm, the permission had not yet come through, and I no longer knew why I had requested a meeting. Unbeknown to me at the time, the Iranian triathlon federation had emailed the ITU stating that under no circumstances should I be allowed to race for Iran. I sat across the table facing three members of the ITU, questioning the faith and values I had been hoping to believe in. Maybe there is a limit to dream, maybe there is an impossible. Then, my phone rang. I was told permission had been granted and I could represent Iran the following morning.

I walked through Hyde Park, digesting what had just happened. Finding myself alone in the pitch dark, I crumbled on the grass with tears of joy and relief pouring from the depth of my being. I was elated and so grateful for everything that happened along the way so far to London ITU World Champs: all the challenges, obstacles and moments of hope. Gratitude for all those moments behind ministry doors where I was told it was impossible, and to all those people who encouraged me to remain positive. For it is this combination that climaxed into that beautiful moment in the darkness of Hyde Park: a strong restoration of my faith.

This year, the journey is Ironman Kona. As opposed to London, this time I am sharing the journey with two others: IRONMAN, who believe that anything is possible and have invited me to compete; and Tri Training Harder, who embrace the philosophy believe, strive, achieve, and are helping me train.

I have no idea what the next 6 months have in store for me. The journey has barely started and I have already once been rejected a visa to the United States to participate in Kona – which is thankfully being revised.  Authorities in Iran are still undecided on whether to support me on this journey or not. The quest to find the right expertise to design suitable clothes for Kona whilst respecting the rules of Iran has taken me across a few continents and has not borne fruit yet. The complications of getting to the start line aside, can my body cope with the stresses and demands of one of the most challenging sporting events in the world – in the heat, wind and humidity of Kona – whilst dressed in full body clothing?

As I take my first steps towards Kona, I can’t help but ask the same questions I had in the lead up to London – despite that empowering moment in Hyde Park. What if I took the leap of faith and believed that I will get to the start line; support, permissions and paperwork in tact; with appropriate kit that won’t hinder me in Kona; and physically and mentally prepared to take up this sporting challenge? Is there a limit to dreaming?

Blogs are easier to write in hindsight: that impossible that became possible. What makes this daunting is that I am writing about Kona before it happens: as that seemingly impossible, that I would love to make possible. Who knows what tomorrow brings, but today, I shall believe with my every being, work to the best of my ability, and continue dreaming. And remember to embrace the whole journey with gratitude as it will be the combination of the bright and dark moments that will shape me and my journey in six months time and beyond.

To Blog? Or not to Blog?

Its been a while since I last wrote a blog entry. Adventures and mischief have been in abundance, but I guess I was going through a restructuring process in my head to understand why I keep a blog. Approximately a year on, and thanks to a brainstorm I had with a lovely human being, I have come to conclude that the blogging should go on.

The problem with blogging is that it leaves you so totally and utterly vulnerable: it exposes one fresh and raw, exactly as we are. Strengths and weaknesses, joys and grief – the whole package exactly as it is. All to an unknown audience around the globe, all with different views and ways of life. Everyone with a definition of how one ought to be and think: some black, some white, and others grey. Some accepting, others controlling. I find this very daunting.

So why have I decided to pick up blogging again? On one hand, I decided to regard it as a personal journey to be true to who I am: my strengths and weaknesses, beliefs and way of life. Be accountable to myself about who I am today, and then strive to grow for the better along the way.

On the other hand, through blogging, I wanted to create my personal corner, away from the edits and selective stories of the media. My story and journey as I have experienced and seen it through my own unedited words. That ordinary little girl with all her imperfections: her dreams, her failures, her ups and downs. Just like all other ordinary girls: unique on a micro level of individual personalities and beliefs; yet the same on a macro level of dreams, hopes, ambitions and imperfections.

And so here starts a whirlwind of emotions and adventures: Dreams, hopes, falling, getting up, falling, getting up, falling… and at times achieving.  My journey, my love affair with life, and its different shades of dark, light and neutral that paints this life so beautifully.

Shades