Having medaled in both Scouts BSA and the 70.3-mile Half Ironman, Jack Harrington sees the similarities.
Last year, he earned the Eagle Scout Award, the highest honor in Scouts BSA. And last month, he finished the Ironman 70.3 Musselman in Geneva, N.Y.
While one journey lasted five years and the other 5.5 hours, both accomplishments speak to the character of a young man willing to work hard and never give up.
Jack says both journeys are completed in stages, where each intermediate finish line builds toward the next. In Scouting, that’s the seven ranks — Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle. In a Half Ironman race, that’s the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run.
And the doubt you might feel along the way? Yeah, that’s a similarity, too.
“During both a triathlon and the trail to Eagle, you often question why you’re doing this really hard thing,” Jack says. “This mental battle is a part of both accomplishments, and so is remembering why you’re doing it. All the work you have put in to get to that point — it isn’t worth stopping.”
Jack, 18, is an Eagle Scout from Troop 600 of Summerfield, N.C., part of the Old North State Council.
Once Jack finally slowed down to catch his breath, Bryan on Scouting caught up with him to learn his story.
A great experience
Some young people start their Scouting journey in Cub Scouts — joining as young as age 5, 6 or 7.
But Jack signed up at 13, accepting an invitation from his friend Ryan to join him at a meeting.
That was the spring of 2016, and Jack says “the troop welcomed me, and the guys in my patrol were great as well.”
For his Eagle project, Jack built a trailhead kiosk at the Bald Eagle Trail, a popular biking path in Summerfield. Jack and his team created a bench, covered seating area, bike workstation, and a weatherproof board with a map and other information.
“I learned that leading a group of people, especially younger ones, is a lot more difficult than some people think,” he says.
He learned a lot more, too. Jack says Scouting got him to step out of his comfort zone, made him a leader and taught him to appreciate the outdoors.
That last point inspired Jack to pursue a degree in fisheries and wildlife science. He starts this fall at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
“Scouting helped with this decision by teaching me about conservation and taking care of the environment,” he says.
Time for everything
Training for a half marathon — coaxing your body to run for 13.1 miles, preferably without stopping — is difficult enough. Now consider training to run that half marathon after swimming more than a mile and biking 56.
Jack’s training schedule included six days of training with one rest day. Some days, he’d have to rush from triathlon training to a Monday night troop meeting. But he prioritized both activities (plus school, work and a social life) and says he became a stronger triathlete as a result.
“Scouting made me very confident, and that confidence and willpower has helped me a lot in triathlons, running and other athletic adventures,” Jack says.
That confidence made crossing the finish line feel even sweeter.
“It’s like that feeling when you graduate, win a huge game or accomplish anything big,” he says. “You’ve put a lot of hours into it, and to cross that finish line feels awesome.”
There’s one more commonality between the Eagle Scout journey and the Half Ironman journey: They are, by definition, solo endeavors. But nobody does them alone.
Jack says his mom, Lori Harrington, has been one of his biggest supporters.
“She got me into triathlons and was a big part of my Scouting journey as well,” he says. “She helped me pack for trips, helped in the troop, taught merit badges and helped push me to do so many things.”
And now Jack would like to help others cross their chosen finish lines by sharing his story.
“A couple of years ago, I thought that people that did triathlons were crazy and that getting Eagle was borderline unattainable,” he says. “However, here I am today with several races and the rank of Eagle Scout under my belt. Just put your mind to something and put in the work, and you can do a lot of amazing things.”
Thanks to Jack’s Scoutmaster, Mike Matzinger, for the blog post idea.