A man with terminal cancer managed to finish an Ironman triathlon in less than fourteen hours despite having undergone two brain surgeries, thirty radiation sessions and a year of chemotherapy treatments.
Jay Hewitt was inspired to do all of this by his 5 year-old daughter, who happens to be named Hero.
Hewitt, 39, has never forgotten seeing his first Ironman race on television back in 1989, when he thought to himself that “they must be superhuman.” At the time, it never crossed his mind that he would one day complete it himself.
After Hero was born in 2015, the memory of first watching an Ironman race popped into Hewitt’s head, and he made a plan to compete in one when she was around 10 years-old in order to show her that she can do anything she sets her mind to.
Sadly, Hewitt was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2018, when Hero was only 3. This meant he had to start training much earlier than he planned.
“My first day of radiotherapy and chemotherapy in August 2019 was the first day I started my Ironman training,” he told Newsweek.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, all Ironman races were canceled in 2020. After talking to organizers, Hewitt was told to sign up for the IRONMAN VR Kona virtual race.
“I was able to design my own course in my hometown and plot the finish line so it was right in front of my garage, which I knew would give me a sense of coming home that would drive me throughout,” he recalled.
On October 9, Hewitt began in Newport Beach’s Back Bay with a 2-mile swim before biking 112 miles and then running the final 26.2 miles. When he rounded the corner at the finish line after 13 hours and 40 minutes, there were hundreds of people there cheering him on.
Hewitt said afterwards that seeing his daughter’s face made it all worth it.
“My daughter and my wife were holding that tape, so I just zeroed in on them thinking ‘I’m coming home,'” he said. “I didn’t have much energy, but I gave my wife a kiss, handed my wife and daughter flowers and got down on my knees to say to Hero, ‘If I can do it, you can do it. Dream big and never give up hope.’ I got to tell her that it was really hard for me but I had thought about coming home to her, and that she had given me the strength to finish.”