Use Ironman races to raise awareness



This week, Ottawa’s Heather Thomson and Brian Doan will leave for California to compete in the first of 16 Ironman 70.3 races they’ll participate in around the world this year.

When Brian Doan and Heather Thomson looked to raise awareness of medical conditions that touched both their lives, they wanted something that made people ask questions.

They settled on the Ironman 70.3. After all, what would inspire two people to race in 16 triathlons in 11 countries on four different continents, in a span of eight months?

For each, the answers are personal.

When he was 27, Doan was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He is now cancer free and wants to raise awareness about a disease that is not "something that all men talk about freely."

"It’s one of those cancers that the sooner you catch it, the better your chances of beating it."

For Thomson, it’s the chance to raise awareness of acquired brain injuries that’s sent her running around the world. In 2005, her sister Tammy sustained a traumatic brain injury in a collision. Doctors suggested her sister would spend her life in a vegetative state and recommended disconnecting her from life support.

But the family decided to give Tammy a chance to recover. "She has a lot of rehab she’s going through but she’s making progress slowly," Thomson said.

Thomson said there isn’t enough knowledge about acquired brain injuries, even among the doctors.

The two have already been featured in pre-race newsletters, on the Ironman website and they are arranging to meet with local media when they arrive for their races. The trip is expected to cost $50,000, paid almost entirely out of their pockets.

"We wanted to find something that was once step beyond what we considered realistic or sane," said Doan.

Beyond finishing times, Thomson said success for the trip can be measured by hits on their website.

"To see when we go down and race in California what our hits are at for the weekend and people are paying attention — that’s success for us," she said.

endurance test

  • An Ironman 70.3 (mile) race is a two-kilometre swim, followed by a 90-km cycle and capped by a 21-km run.

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