A cold wind and rain accompanied resident Fred Arnold, 50, as he stepped up to the starting line at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in South Africa.
“It added to the dynamic,” said Arnold, branch manager at American Family Funding, a division of American Pacific Mortgage. “I think pursuing excellence is admirable. Sometimes, we get so fixated on our jobs and our career.”
This was Arnold’s first time qualifying for the world championships, but he’s no stranger to the Ironman circuit. In the past three years, he has completed three 140.6-mile full Ironman races, as well as 12 of the half-Ironmans, which is 70.3 miles.
“‘I’ve done this 15 other times in the last three years — I can do it,’” he said, sharing his thoughts as stepped to the starting line.
The motivational messages he received from friends and family, and the support of the people who stayed up late to watch the start, is what kept him pushing through the race, Arnold said.
In a message to his children shared on Facebook, he hopes the completion of this type of endurance challenge may inspire them to follow any challenging obstacles they might face in life.
“To my beautiful kids, Alex, Katie, Jack and Amy, always strive for what you want in life,” Arnold wrote in a post Monday accompanying a Facebook video, which was recorded in South Africa.
“It doesn’t matter what age you are. It doesn’t matter where you are in life. You can achieve whatever you want,” he said in his facebook video.
Just a couple years ago, Arnold was in average shape, he said. He is now 50 and has set goals to get in better fitness, start the races and most recently the goal to qualify for the Ironman.
“I never thought I would be able to do, qualify for the world championships and I was able to,” Arnold said in his Facebook video. “I didn’t do it alone. I did it with your help and love. I did it with my own internal striving to be better everyday.”
Arnold completed the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and 13.1-mile run and achieved a personal record in his run, averaging about five minutes a mile.
Along the race course, he kept encouraging others, he said, even with a bit of a language barrier between many of the competitors.
At the world championships, 102 countries were represented by 4,500 athletes, 769 of them Americans, according to Arnold.
“Sometimes, encouraging others helps you to keep going in life,” Arnold said. “It’s about living your extraordinary life, not having any regrets, inspiring others and seeing how far you can push yourself.”
Arnold competed among some of the finest athletes in the world during the race in South Africa, where he found himself questioning if he belonged.
“I think the toughest part was believing I belonged with the best of the best,” he said. “I was very humbled and honored to be there.”
Arnold crossed the finish line at 5 hours, 44 minutes.
“I was really relieved I was done. The training was done, the race was done,” he said. “I was able to enjoy the destination, because the journey paid off.”
Arnold’s training has required him to be very disciplined.
“There is always someone out there who is better, faster, stronger, but what matters is qualifying and achieving my dream to be there,” he said. “Keep moving forward and live your extraordinary life — that’s my motto.”