Just a few years ago, if you would have asked Dr. Steven J. Heithoff, hand specialist for Orthopedic Associates of Port Huron, if he would consider running a triathlon or even a 5k (3.1 miles), his response would have been, “Absolutely not.”
A lot has changed since then. Dr. Steve, as the practice staff refers to him, recently competed in the Chicago Marathon (26.2 miles), qualifying for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:44:45 within the age group of 55-59. This is a huge accomplishment considering just a few years ago he ran only “2-3 miles here and there,” says Dr. Steve.
“I was never really interested in or had the time to commit to training for such long competitions,” says Dr. Steve, “but when a friend asked if I wanted to participate in a local triathlon, I decided to give it a shot.” Starting with a 5k and progressively working towards a half Ironman, it wasn’t long before Dr. Steve found himself competing with his previous performances, continuously challenging himself to go longer distances in shorter amounts of time.
“When I first started, I remember thinking that I wasn’t sure if I could finish a 10K (6.2 miles), but when I did and I saw my finishing time, I thought, ‘I can do better than that’ and worked towards a better time in the next race,” shares Dr. Steve.
In an effort to continuously improve his runs, Dr. Steve sought out tips and encouragement from more experienced competitors and a coach to help plan his training. “By no means, would I consider myself an elite athlete. I knew I could use advice from more experienced competitors, like some of my friends and my running coach, Maureen Muzzarelli, PT, DPT.”
From his friends and his coach, Dr. Steve shares some of the same advice they gave him for those considering competing in competitive races:
- Endurance is key. Remember that building and sustaining endurance is crucial, but so is pacing yourself through practice runs to avoid injury.
- Improving your core strength can help you build and sustain endurance through your runs.
- Adequate training and rest are equally as important.
- Understand your limitations whether you are suffering from a condition or injury, and accommodate your training regimen to avoid training injuries.
- Seek guidance from a coach. A great coach is someone that will encourage you to push yourself while reminding you that recovery is just as important.
- Consider training with running clubs or other avid runners to learn more about the sport and learn from their expertise and experiences.
“There are many excellent athletes in the Port Huron area, and most of them are more than willing to answer questions and offer advice,” says Dr. Steve. “In my conversations with them, I can say I certainly learned a lot.”
Pleased to have qualified for the Boston Marathon and having already competed in a half ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, 13.1 mile run), when Dr. Steve was asked if he will eventually compete in a full Ironman (long distance triathlon), his response this time wasn’t “absolutely not,” it was simply just “not now.”
Congratulations, Dr. Steve!