Yes he can
76-year-old Easton man to compete in Ironman World Championship
EASTON — Murray Sarubin, a 76-year-old man from Easton, defies the odds of aging by pushing his body to the lofty athletic goals of much younger men. His ability and endurance soon will be pushed to the max as he competes in the 2017 Ironman Triathlon World Championships on Saturday, Oct. 14, in Kona, Hawaii.
“It’s great. I feel very fortunate in my life, for the last 40 years of pushing my physicality,” Sarubin said.
“The good Lord gave me a sturdy body that still works, and I have the passion to keep going.”
Sarubin is a retired dentist who grew up in Baltimore. He said sports were not necessarily in his background and upbringing, but once he saw what his body was capable of, he began to push that envelope and take on more and more physical challenges. That drive has led him to the gates of his greatest achievement and goal — the Ironman Triathalon World Championship.
“I like challenging myself and the sense of accomplishment,” Sarubin said. “I like doing something that maybe at a point in my life I thought I would never be able to do.”
He started doing triathlons in the early 1980s, and since then, he has competed in 150 triathlons; more than 30 marathons, including the New York City Marathon and the Boston Marathon; and six Chesapeake Bay Swims.
His accomplishments in the world of triathlons include seven Ironman triathlons during the past 17 years and recently qualifying for the world championship.
He competed in his first Ironman when he was 59 years old and has dreamt about qualifying for the championship ever since.
Last October, Sarubin made his dreams come true when he competed and won his division in one of the qualifying challenges, the Maryland Ironman in Cambridge. Sarubin was competing in the 75- to 79-year-old age group.
“I was thrilled. It is something I have wanted to do for years,” Sarubin said. “But it is like they say, be careful what you wish for, because it is a lot of work.”
Ironman triathlons consist of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. To qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, Sarubin had to place first in his age group at any one of the Ironman races around the world.
Once he qualified, Sarubin and his wife, Susan Sarubin, began planning their trip to Hawaii. They purchased their plane tickets, reserved an Airbnb and began to train physically.
For the Sarubins, everything seemed set; the dream seemed more like a reality until everything came crashing down, including Sarubin himself.
Sarubin started training in April, and one month later, in May, while vacationing in Italy, Sarubin had an accident and fractured his tibial plateau.
”This was a huge setback,” Susan Sarubin said. “He was non-weight bearing and that meant literally he sat here, we iced it, and there was pretty much nothing he could do.”
Depressed and discouraged, Sarubin believed his dream may have slipped away, until his wife figured out a way to get him up and moving again.
She said she placed several walkers around the home, and she was able to acquire him a wheelchair. With that, the possibility of once again competing began to open up.
”I figured out that I could wheel him into the Y and into the handicap dressing room, and then wheel him into the pool where they have a chair that lifts people into the pool,” Susan Sarubin said. “And then he could swim. So he was able to keep up his swim training the entire time.”
Sarubin said the experience made him realize how lucky he was.
”I spent a lot of time just sitting in the chair,” Sarubin said. “To tell the truth, it made me very sensitive to people who are like that all their lives, and I felt very fortunate, and the weeks seemed like years in the beginning.”
He said at one point his orthopedist had extended his recovery time by four additional weeks and that was heartbreaking.
”We went to an appointment and it was awful,” Sarubin said. “We thought he was going to be cleared to walk, and they said another four weeks. It was awful.”
But thanks to Susan Sarubin’s encouragement and drive was able to keep her husband focused.
”The fact that I could swim made me feel normal,” he said. “I began to work on myself and tell myself that this was not forever. You just gotta keep your eye on the prize.”
By July, Sarubin once again was running and cycling. Within a month, he was able to achieve 80 miles on bike rides and 15-mile runs.
Sarubin trains daily by cycling with his wife and trains for running with Unleashed, a Talbot Humane charity running group.
”I cannot say enough about the Unleashed group,” Sarubin said. “I have had so much fun with them. They are so supportive and sweet and so nice, and I have met so many people that I would never encountered without Unleashed.”
Sarubin loves the group so much he will wear a cycling jersey with the Unleashed logo on his back during the race.
”It adds a quality of life to be able to be outside enjoy the scenery of the Eastern shore and to meet people,” Sarubin said. “Meeting people and encouraging them to achieve their own goals is what truly motivates me.”
For the Ironman championship race, Sarubin will be competing against 12 other competitors in his age group from around the world.
”At my ability and my age, you have to finish the Ironman in 17 hours. If you come it at 17:05, you didn’t finish,” Sarubin said. “So I will be chasing that time. That’s my only competition, the clock.”
Sarubin challenges the aging game and refuses to be the quintessential old man. He has a lot of support to keep him motivated, including his wife, who calls herself “his stage mom.”
In the past, both his son and his daughter have competed with him in races, and his son will join him in Hawaii for the competition.
Sarubin has some advice for other folks his age and hopes to inspire others to get active and fight the stereotypical message of aging.
”There is a joy in it. The good Lord made this body to move,” Sarubin said. “There is always something that people can be doing — baby steps, but if you can walk, you can breathe, and move your arms, you can get fit and enjoy physicality. We were made to move, and we gotta keep moving.”
To keep track of Sarubin’s progress during the race, tune into ironmanlive.com between the hours of noon and 6 a.m. Oct. 14 and 15. His bib number will be 178.
Murray Sarubin on the bike course during Ironman Maryland, in Cambridge last October.
Sarubin receiving his first place finisher’s age-group award and Ironman World Championship qualifying letter at the 2016 Ironman Maryland awards breakfast last October.