Firefighter-paramedic finishes Ironman race in full firefighting gear
Diana Woolf competed to help raise money and awareness for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and her personal campaign, Rescue 4 PTSD
By Brady Fredericksen
HAINES CITY, Ohio — Diana Woolf wasn't racing to win on Sunday.
She had a bigger goal on her mind.
A part-time firefighter and paramedic with the Highland Hills Fire Department just outside Cleveland, Ohio, Woolf competed in Ironman 70.3 Florida to help raise money and awareness for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and her personal campaign, Rescue 4 PTSD.
The goal of that campaign is to help first responders battling post-traumatic stress disorder. That hits close to home for Woolf because both she and her husband Jim suffer from PTSD following careers as firefighters.
Diana, a veteran triathlete, finished the 1.2-mile swim and 56-mile bike like normal.
She then walked the running leg in full fire gear — helmet, fire jacket, bunker pants and an air pack. The 46-year-old finished the race in 8 hours, 24:21 minutes as she received one of the loudest ovations from the crowd at Lake Eva Park.
"The minute I started talking about it and coming out and saying, 'I have PTSD' and putting it on a big stage like Ironman, it just makes people open up and talk," she said. "I want them to show, 'Hey, I've got PTSD.' I've been really healed from doing Ironman and triathlons."
Racing at the Ironman 70.3 Florida is just the start.
After competing on Sunday, Diana plans to head to Colorado for Ironman Boulder and then Kentucky for Ironman Louisville later this year. Both are full, 140.6-mile triathlons.
"Most firefighters, they're tough and they don't want to say that they've got a problem," said Jim, a firefighter for over 30 years. "She wants to bring to light that this is a real thing and this is impacting firefighters."
Wearing 37 pounds of gear, Diana slowly made her way around Lake Eva during the afternoon as Jim and other friends and family members cheered from the spectator areas. Walking by Diana's side was friend and training partner Natalie McManamon.
"It's so awesome to support her because she's so motivated for the cause," said McManamon. "We've done a ton of races, but it's nice to race for a cause."
Sunday was a culmination of five months' work. Nine members of the Haines City Fire Department working the race roared as she stomped to the finish.
That's exactly why she's doing this.
"There are more firefighters killing themselves than dying in the line of duty. They're just now connecting it to the PTSD," Diana said. "Just opening up firefighters to talk; it's OK to have PTSD. You're not weak."
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