[notice]Richard Preston, Lead Elder at The Storehouse, New Covenant Church, Port Elizabeth, prayed a simple prayer and later, with his body still aching from multiple injuries, entered one of the most gruelling one-man endurance events in the world. This is his testimony.[/notice]
At the end of 2013 whilst contemplating the arrival of 2014, I asked God to make 2014 different. I asked for a testimony of His goodness and faithfulness and that He would give me a story to tell of His kindness. I had no idea how this simple prayer would work out and anticipated that it would relate to a spiritual aspect of my life or the church. I had decided to enter the Ironman largely after sensing God’s approval and as a result of my sister believing that she had heard God to offer to sponsor 50% of my entry fee. The entry fee is quite expensive and for the 2014 race was set at R4250. The race was unique in that it was the 10th year anniversary of the race. I knew the day would be difficult because I was carrying a knee injury which I contracted three years ago in training for the 2010 Ironman.
On the 4 January 2014 I fell off my tri-bike at speed after I had hit gravel that was lying in the road. As a result I picked up severe injuries. When hitting the tarmac I removed the skin off my left shoulder, left elbow and left hip. I was taken to hospital where my hip, left elbow and right hand were x-rayed. The radiologist informed me that everything that was x-rayed was fractured. I was then operated on and pins placed in my right hand. I was discharged in terrible pain and told to lie on my back and not move for two weeks to allow the crack in my hip to heal. After the two week period, I was re-xrayed and all the fractures were seen to be healing well. Six weeks after the accident my cast was removed and I tentatively restarted training. Race day which was set for the 6th April was approaching quickly and I had lost a month and a half of training. I had been told that swimming was a great rehabilitative training exercise so I started swimming in a wetsuit at a public swimming bath.
On the 19 February whilst I was swimming in the public swimming bath, a teenager jumped from the 10 metre high diving board and landed on my back seriously injuring my right lung and breaking ribs. I had to be rescued out of the water by 2 life guards who helped me remove my wetsuit as I was unable to on my own. Lying on the side of the pool I asked God what is going on. I felt Him clearly say He has placed a limit and the limit has been reached.
So once again it was back to the doctors and bed rest. I had great difficulty in breathing properly and after 10 days tried to restart training on a stationary bicycle. I tried my best to increase training, but was unable to run or swim. The effect of these exercises on my right lung was too painful. With threeweeks to go to Ironman and fighting pain in every training session, I said to God “What is the point? Ironman for me is never going to happen”. I felt God say to me “You do what you can and I’ll do what I can”. So I continued to train, but in great pain. One week to Ironman I was able to sleep for the first time on my right side. As the day of the race approached, a confidence began to grow in me and I was very keen to see what God would do on the day.
The day arrived and standing on the beach facing a 3.8k swim, a 180k cycle and a 42.2k marathon I was fully aware that I did not have the talent, energy, training or ability to complete the race. My right hand ached when swimming, my left elbow ached on the bicycle and I was still not able to take full breaths with my right lung. The rest is history. God sustained me magnificently through the swim where I was about 5 minutes off my best time ever. Notwithstanding a very strong head wind for approximately 100km, I was able to cope with the 180km cycle leg. I knew the run was going to be tough but God carried me through that as well.
After 200metres into the marathon, with 40km left to go, I started cramping severely in both legs, so much so I thought my race was over. I managed to hobble on and 2 kms further on a friend saw me and said I desperately needed to get a few Rennies tablets which would help with the cramp. In Ironman you are not allowed any help on the course and I never carry Rennies tablets with me. I tried to continue to run. About one to two kms further on, I saw a Rennies box on the ground. I picked it up and inside was one sealed sheet of Rennies tablets. I immediately took two, the cramp disappeared and I was able to continue and finish the race.
A great joy was being presented with my finishers medal by my daughter Abigail, who is employed by Ironman SA.
I have learnt a few things out of this experience. God places limits on what the enemy is able to do in our lives. He calls us to do what we can do and leave the rest to Him. It is so important that we continue to take little steps forward and He will get us to the end. When we are prepared to risk, the rewards are far sweeter. Although the Ironman has no eternal significance, God used it to display His faithfulness, kindness and sustaining power to one of His sons.