The first “Ride on Ryan” triathlon and duathlon is set for May 11 at L. Scott Stell Community Park in Savannah. The race honors Ryan Williams, who died from an overworked heart last May at the age of 32.
According to event coordinators, the race was created to see to it that Williams’ positive attitude and outlook on life live on.
“We’re hoping that people who come out to the race can take with them Ryan’s ‘Pura Vida’ attitude towards life,” said Stevie Williams, Ryan’s younger sister. “This outlook practices not taking life for granted, living each and every day to the fullest and seeing the good in everything. He embodied and executed that attitude every day. His positive demeanor drew people to him.”
The proceeds from the race will be donated to the Liberty County/Armed Services YMCA.
Ryan Williams grew up attending programs and playing sports at the Y. Coached by his dad, Fred Williams, he started playing basketball at the Habersham Y when he was 6 years old.
In addition to participating in youth sports at the Y, Williams on several occasions attended overnight summer camp at the YMCA’s Camp Sea Gull and Camp Greenville in North Carolina. He also took swim lessons at the Y and later used those skills during triathlon competitions.
“As kids, Ryan and I hung out at the YMCA a lot. We could walk there from our house, and it was like a second home to us. We spent a lot of time there because it was a safe and fun environment,” Stevie Williams said.
“It was like the Y was part of our house,” said Stacie New, Williams’ older sister. “When you’re at the Y, the community draws you in. I still have that at the Y today. It’s like a family — your home away from home”.
Like his father, Ryan Williams believed in helping out the community. The Williams family considers the YMCA an organization that not only helps, but meets the needs of the community.
“We want to give back to the YMCA because of what we’ve seen the Y do for others,” Stevie Williams said. “The Liberty County Y has a great facility; the military outreach they do there is amazing.”
She mentioned Operation Ride Home, a program that sent soldiers home so they could spend Christmas with their families.
“The programs they offer for Army wives of deployed soldiers are so important to that community,” New added.
The Y not only provides a sense of community and family, but it also promotes and encourages healthy living, concepts that Ryan Williams was passionate about.
He devoted his time and energy into not just living healthy himself, but also instilling these same qualities in others. “He’d stop his day to help anyone in both life and in training,” New said.
Williams had an interest in endurance racing for quite some time. When he participated in his first triathlon in 2008, he found his calling.
He pursued his new passion by starting up Ryan Williams Multisport and began coaching and mentoring fellow athletes from Savannah to Miami.
He pushed his colleagues, students, clients and friends to do better and made them want to do better.
He enjoyed investing in others from the goodness of his heart.
Williams loved the thrill from triathlons, but for him it was more about the work he put forth to get there than about improving race times.
His positive demeanor motivated and inspired those he worked with, and as a result, they took the steps necessary to live healthier lives.
After Williams’ passing, his family was touched by all of the stories his clients shared about how he helped change their lives. Friends held a memorial ride in Miami as well as in Savannah.
“After the memorial rides, deciding to start the race was a given,” New said. “It clicked with us; we thought it would be nice to begin hosting an annual race so that Ryan’s memory and mantra carries on. We got the name from a Facebook post that one of his cycling friends put up with the caption “Ride on Ryan.”
The whole family is getting involved in this year’s race: New is racing in the duathlon, Stevie Williams and her sister-in-law are entering as a relay team in the duathlon, and Ryan Williams’ mom and nephew are doing the same.
“Our goal with the race is not to make a profit, but to be able to give back to the Y and provide families with the same experiences that we had growing up,” Stevie Williams said. “We hope that people will come out to celebrate not only Ryan’s memory, but his whole outlook on life and the spirit of giving back to others.”
For more information and to find out how to join the “Ride on Ryan,” go to www.rideonryantriathlon.com.