It was an emotional scene.
A crowd of supporters — friends and family — gathered at the finish line of the Ironman competition in Louisville, Ky., Sunday to congratulate Tarleton State University professor Randall Bowden for coming in 72nd in a field of 153 in his age division.
They didn’t care that he didn’t win. They cared a lot that he finished.
Dr. Bowden was diagnosed with bone cancer in July. He completed the grueling course, his second full triathlon, in under 13½ hours.
“It’s hard to describe,” he said in a post-race interview with The Courier-Journal. “This one was so much more special because there’s so many family members here that flew in from all over the country for support and encouragement that it just brings me to tears. It’s so exciting.”
He finished the 140-mile course in 13:26.42, clocking 17:15 in the swim portion, shortened from 2.4 to .9 miles due to dangerous currents in the Ohio River. He posted a 7:03.52 in the 112-mile bike event and 5:37.16 in the 26.2-mile marathon run.
He began training for triathlons in early summer after a previous cancer scare and 80 hours of chemotherapy that left him with painful nerve damage in his feet but his competitive drive intact.
“I think cancer kind of took a bite out of me,” he said. “It showed up in my feet and reminded me that I still have it. But I also reminded it that it’s not going to win.”
Nicknamed One Tough Hombre by his wife, Bowden overcame the pain and celebrated his remarkable finish with his cheering section Sunday night.
“Every step was just about as painful as it could be,” he told the newspaper. “So I was trying to adjust my stride, and I just could never hit my stride because of the pain. So I just tried to tough it out.”