Yes he can

76-year-old Eas­ton man to com­pete in Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By DENAE SPIERING dspier­ing@ches­

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 iron­man­ 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.

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