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Kona Inspired: Racing For Orphans With Down Syndrome

  • By Bethany Mavis
  • Published Aug 24, 2012
  • Updated Aug 26, 2012 at 11:34 AM UTC
Brady Murray and his son Nash.

Brady Murray will be racing for orphans with Down syndrome in Kona this October as part of the Kona Inspired program. The program was instituted for the first time this year, and it awards eight slots for the Ironman World Championship to inspiring triathletes. Each person submitted a 90-second video showcasing how they embodied the Ironman mantra “Anything is possible,” and the endurance community voted on the videos the last few months.

Murray, a 33-year-old father of three, has a son with Down syndrome—5-year-old Nash. The Boise, Idaho, resident has been racing triathlon since 2009, but completed his first Ironman this year at St. George in a time of 12:26:19. His motivation to race Ironman is to help find families for the hundreds of children with Down syndrome currently living in orphanages and mental institutions around the world. He races for RODS Racing, his own organization, and Reece’s Rainbow, who advocate adoption of children with Down syndrome. Triathlete.com caught up with Murray to learn more about his organization and the impact of his racing.

Triathlete.com: How did you hear about the Kona Inspired program?

Murray: I got an email from Ironman announcing it. And that was right in the middle of when we really started advocating for these children, orphans with Down syndrome, and we were really looking for ways to help spread the word and create awareness for them. So it was just a natural fit. The reality is when Ironman announced that, I thought, “This is a long shot.” There are so many great stories and great athletes out there, but I just felt like it was something I should do and give it a shot for these kids, and it worked out.

Triathlete.com: In the voting process, did you feel like people kind of rallied around you to vote?

Murray: Definitely. One thing that I was very fortunate to have is the Down syndrome community is a very tightknit community. And I was amazed at the support that came not just from the nation but literally worldwide from individuals who had heard or seen the video and wanted to be part of the cause.

Triathlete.com: How has the triathlon community responded to you racing for orphans with Down syndrome?

Murray: That’s been incredible as well. I’m very active in the Boise triathlon community here through different clubs or organizations, and from a training standpoint. And they, as well, were a huge supporter of finding the video, hearing about the video, as well as some of the triathlon companies within the industry—ISM was a big supporter. One of their reps actually has a child with Down syndrome, Dave Bunce—so Dave was a big supporter there, as well as some of the triathlon-specific companies were great supporters.

Triathlete.com: And how did you find about the organization Reece’s Rainbow?

Murray: It’s kind of ironic—I actually went to Kona and watched the race last year. I was over there visiting family and my wife’s parents were over there doing some work, and we timed it so that we were there during the world championship. I watched the world championship in October, and there was something that just clicked. I’d seen full Ironman races before, and I’d seen different triathlon races and participated in them, but there was something there was just different. I couldn’t put my finger on it. And I felt like there was something special that I needed to take part in. It was only a few weeks later that I was home and a friend of ours that we actually met through the Down syndrome community—they had just had a child with Down syndrome—asked us if we’d ever heard of Reece’s Rainbow. We hadn’t heard anything about it. They told us to go to the website, and that’s when we started looking at the website and the children that were listed there, and that’s really where things started to take off. And the reality is, little did I know that that special thing in my heart that I felt over there in Kona just a few weeks earlier would lead me to RODS Racing and who would have guessed that I’d be racing in that race this year?

Triathlete.com: Do you know if your racing and supporting this organization has had any effect yet?

Murray: It has. It’s been a very humbling thing. We raised over $67,000 this year. When my wife and I decided to start RODS Racing and start our blog and try to get a following for these children, we thought it was important that we choose a child on Reece’s Rainbow that we were going to specifically advocate for. We chose a child in December—his name is Eli—and he’s a child that at the time was living in Eastern Europe and really had very little hope. We spoke with the founder of Reece’s Rainbow about Eli, and her exact words were, “Eli is in a dark hole. There’s very little hope for him. One thing you could do, though, is fundraise for him, and if you could get enough money to make it possible for a family to adopt him, we think that he has a shot.” So we went to work. Miracles happened and very quickly we were able to raise $20,000 for Eli through many different avenues. And about 30 days later, a family came forward and committed to adopt Eli—that family’s become since a very close friend of mine, and it’s something that is very special to know that those efforts through triathlon, through Ironman literally saved a life in Eli, and in that very quick amount of time, we have one child that’s already saved.

Triathlete.com: What are the biggest challenges of having a child with Down syndrome?

Murray: You know, I’ve actually been asked that a few times. I couldn’t put any specific challenge that would be related to having a child with Down syndrome different than any of the other children I have. They all have their personalities and their quirks and really cute things they do and things that are maybe a little bit more frustrating. I would actually say that of all three of my children, Nash is the easiest. Nash is a very well-mannered, very special little kid that is full of love and is very willing to give hugs and kisses and just likes to make people feel happy, and that’s a unique talent that he has that I would say is quite common within children and people that have Down syndrome.

Triathlete.com: What does it mean for you to be racing Kona this year?

Murray: Oh man. I’m sorry I get very emotional about it as well, but this has nothing to do with me, with Brady Murray. It’s 100 percent an opportunity for these kids. It just so happens that I get to be the one that does this on their behalf. So for me to be able to have that opportunity to get to represent these special people and these special children, it means the world to me. It’s a very unique opportunity that I take very seriously, and recognize that this wasn’t something that I did on my own by any means, but this was a community—the triathlon community, the Down syndrome community—that rallied together that’s giving this opportunity for these children’s story to be heard.

To learn more visit Rodsracing.org and Reecesrainbow.org. To see Murray’s Kona Inspired video, click here.

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Bethany Mavis

Bethany Mavis

Bethany Mavis is the associate editor for Triathlete and Inside Triathlon magazines. She received her B.A. in journalism from Point Loma Nazarene University and is a multiple half-marathon finisher.

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