My name is Joshua Lambert. I am 44 years of age and I am a 13-year veteran Deputy Sheriff for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. I am also an Ironman triathlete as a hobby, and a way to stay fit and challenge myself physically.
At 42 years of age, I was out of shape, 80 lbs overweight, and had already suffered multiple injuries throughout the course my 13 year career. I had a stroke at 36 years of age (onset by high blood pressure, which I didn’t know I had at the time), I have had knee surgery, two shoulder surgeries, and low-back surgery. After having sustained such injuries, especially such a bad knee injury, and having been told by doctors I wouldn’t be much of a runner ever again, becoming a triathlete, let alone an Ironman triathlete, was definitely not something I even thought physically possible for me at the time.
I began cycling toward the end of 2017, and started to lose weight and get into better shape. In January of 2018, a friend/co-worker of mine (also a six-time Ironman triathlete), challenged me to do an Olympic Distance Triathlon with him in March of 2018. Since I wasn’t a swimmer, nor was I a runner, I was a bit hesitant to accept his challenge. However, I decided to face my fear and just go for it.
In March of 2018, I completed my first Olympic Distance Triathlon, and became addicted to the sport. I continued doing more triathlons, including a half-Ironman and some half-marathons during 2018. In May of 2019, I completed my first full-distance Ironman triathlon and earned the title of Ironman. I had beaten the odds to achieve this goal by a long shot.
I couldn’t help but think there was some sort of reason or purpose behind all of this. Along the way, I started to gain a more positive outlook on life and encouraged others to start getting into fitness. However, I felt like my purpose was much bigger. There had to be a bigger reason a physically broken man such as myself was capable of getting into the best shape of my life at 44 years of age, and become an Ironman, despite what doctors told me. That purpose was realized this month (October of 2019).
Another friend/partner of mine posted something on social media that moved me. He was driving through a neighborhood and saw an American Flag hanging out of a trash can in front of a residence. Being the patriotic man he is, he was so upset by this, he removed the flag from the trash can and took it home with him. Disposing of an American Flag in a trash can is not an appropriate way to dispose of an American Flag, and is considered to be disrespectful. His post on social media gave me an idea and I was inspired to do something for a good cause to honor and pay respect to the flag, and also to honor and respect the men and women who have paid the ultimate price defending what they believe that flag stands for.
I reached out to my friend and asked him if he would allow me to carry and fly that flag for my next half-Ironman race on December 8, 2019 during the half-marathon run portion of that race. I told him I’d also like to carry it during the full marathon portion of my next full-distance Ironman race in November of 2020 in Tempe, Arizona. I explained to him I wanted to do this to start a campaign to honor fallen military and 1st responder personnel who have died in the line of duty defending what they believe this flag stands for, and that I wanted to seek out a charitable organization to raise money to help families of the fallen. He thought it was a great idea and said he would allow me to fly the flag.
Unfortunately, the flag he recovered from the trash can is damaged (which is why we assume someone improperly disposed of the flag), and it is considered inappropriate to fly a damaged flag unless it is able to be repaired and the repair cannot be seen while the flag is being flown. We will try to have the flag repaired. However, if the flag cannot be repaired, I will still fly an American flag during my races in 2020 in place of the original flag and hold true to the original meaning of why I’m doing this.
I love this country and I love what our flag stands for; honor, integrity, and liberty, and the home of a place where anyone can make their dreams come true. I am honored and blessed to be able to challenge myself physically to honor the fallen in this way. I will be dedicating all of my races over the next year to this cause, and carry the American Flag during all of the run portions of my races to honor the fallen. I hope to raise as much money as I can for the families of the fallen over the course of the next year.
After careful consideration in choosing a charitable organization to raise money for, Tunnels to Towers seemed to be the obvious choice due to their track record, and due to the fact that they offer financial assistance to the families of fallen first responders and military, which encompasses my vision.