I struggle here today to find the words to place the performance of one man into context, to give perspective, to serve justice unto the event and not overdramatize, overspeak, overwrite the events that happened on one Sunday afternoon in Colorado. It was just exercise, after all. One man picked up weight and put it down. He threw a ball in the air and caught it. He pulled himself up on the rings.
And he pulled us all up.
Chris Spealler, a small man with the strength of a bigger man, a Bible tattoo on his chest, and a megawatt smile, lifted us all up on a Sunday afternoon and made us feel, for one bright, sunny afternoon, like life was fair.
He got third place in the South West Regionals of the CrossFit Games. Third place. And yet he overshadowed the first and second place winners. Why? Because he wasn’t supposed to be on that podium. Because he came from behind. Because when all else was dark, Speal was light. Because one man, one small man, working harder than ever, managed to pull out the performance of a lifetime and make the last spot in his region for the 2012 CrossFit Games.
Speal will be going back to the Games for the sixth time: the only person to compete in all six CrossFit Games. That in itself is remarkable. That he was also the 2010 CrossFit Games “Spirit of the Games” award winner is remarkable. That he managed to push that big honking sled in the 2011 Games is remarkable. There is pretty much nothing unremarkable about Chris Spealler … except that he’s a regular guy, a husband, a dad, a CrossFit affiliate owner, a CrossFit Level One trainer, and just about one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.
And, so, one Sunday afternoon in the beginning of May, we huddled around our laptops and our iPads and our phones and waited breathlessly for the next updates, the next words, the next news coming from the Regionals. Could Spealler do it? Could he make it when all the odds were against him?
He did. And we all yelled and cheered and cried when he did. One man. Exercising in a gym in Colorado. And yet it was important, so important.
Because of this crazy CrossFit thing. Because CrossFit inspires us in ways we never dreamed of before. We go to the gym and we become better athletes … and then better friends, better parents, better people. And it all starts in the gym, doing CrossFit together. We have learned this now. We know that CrossFit is more than a workout, more than a name, more than one person, or ten, or a hundred, or a thousand.
Who would have ever imagined we would be there like that? Huddled around our phones and laptops and iPads, reading tweets and updates and wondering how it all ends, or continues, for a little guy from Utah? Who would have thought our hearts could hold so much hope, so much joy, so much love?
And so the story goes on, and we all play our roles. Victory, near-misses, failure. We go to the gym and continue our journey, but we savor the moments like Speal’s — the times that give us all hope — hope we so need — that if you work hard, really hard, and you do the right things, that life will come around and reward you.
Thank you, Chris Spealler, we needed that.
(Image courtesy of Mary Pantier Photography.)