Last week I received the shock news that a man that I admired and considered a friend had suffered a heart-attack. At the back on my mind was always a fear that he may die, but this was Craig Percival, he’d done 8 Ironmans in 8 days in the 8 States and Territories of Australia…he was invincible. So numerous times over the last week I’ve refreshed my email in the hope of seeing a message that started ‘Great news everyone…’, knowing that from there another story of Craig’s endurance would begin.
Instead I opened my email this afternoon to find a message that began ‘It is with the heaviest of hearts…’ and I momentarily resisted opening it, in the hope that I could delay inevitable, but I couldn’t. One of the most amazing people I had ever met had passed away, and it broke my heart.
Craig coached me for nearly 15 months to the completion of my first Ironman. He also got me on board to film a documentary about the 8in8in8. During that time we would communicate every week, whether through email, text or phone…and not once did he say ‘Chris, you know what the best thing for you to do is? Wallow in self-pity.’ So I can’t imagine he wants me to start now. Instead I want to focus on the amazing things that he did. Because we need a lot more people like Craig in the world, and at the moment, we’re one down.
‘Not only can do, but did do’
In a world where people are too scared to tackle the seemingly impossible, Craig was willing to commit 100%. Not only that, but if you were looking to do something seemingly impossible, then he would commit himself 100% to that as well.
We need to keep this alive, because that sort of dedication and enthusiasm is contagious…and we seem to be surrounded by an ever increasing number of ‘seemingly impossible’ things.
A family man
Craig was fiercely devoted to his kids. He often told me that the thing that he used as a motivator for when he was doing a really hard run set in his preparation for the 8in8in8 was the thought of him running over the last hundred meters of the last marathon with Lindell and the kids.
One of the most beautiful moments of the 8in8in8 was when he was reunited with his kids before the final swim in Melbourne. Like a prizefighter he taken so many punches and hits over the preceding 7 days and still stayed on his feet, but a hug from his daughter nearly nearly overpowered him.
He was also part of an incredible team with Lindell. There were so many times during the 8in8in8 when it looked like it was just them against the world, and instead of relenting, they took strength from each other and overcame. It was amazing to watch.
You can’t fake inspiration, and Craig was just inspirational. I don’t know how many marathons, 70.3 and Ironmans he had coached people to…but it would be thousands. And every one of those people had been inspired by Craig and in turn has no doubt inspired other people.
I met Greg McDermott and April Gillies on the Sydney leg of the 8in8in8 and Greg recently rode around Australia with April providing support. They walked along the Cronulla foreshore into the wee hours of the night to support Craig…but I also feel that they got a boost of inspiration for what they were looking to embark on. Peter Wheatley did 30 marathons in 30 days. Ailie Coulter did the Ultraman world champs. These are people who have been inspired by Craig, and who in turn have inspired me.
So please, if you can do one thing in memory of Craig, inspire people. Make people feel good about themselves and see what they can achieve.
When I did the Melbourne marathon, Craig was there yelling on support, when I did Shepparton 70.3, he was there, giving me a wetsuit fitting that was worth at least five minutes in the swim, at Ironman Melbourne he jogged along with me and when I said ‘I just vomited blood’…he said ‘Bonus!’ He raised over $100K for the John Maclean Foundation, and even in death he gave his organs so that other people might have a second chance at life.
In a world where more and more people want to take more than they give…it’s those who give that we remember.
I was so proud of being part of the 8in8in8. I felt so privileged to have been let into the inner-sanctum with Lindell, Kate, Grant, Ginny and everyone else, and to spend time with Sam and Sienna. I don’t want to dwell on the hurt, because I know that there are people hurting a lot more than me, but Craig, your loss is a brutal reality that hasn’t even sunk in yet.
Just know that you have built an incredible family of athletes, and we will rally around Lindell and the kids. Not just now, but for as long as they need us, and know that you have changed my life with both my Ironman and the 8in8in8, and I will be eternally grateful.
P.S If anyone reading this would like to support Craig’s wife and kids, please head here and give generously https://www.gofundme.com/helpcraigpercivalsfamily