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Duathlon Helps 78-Year-Old Athlete Push the Limits
Harold Hering’s desire to achieve keeps him active, healthy, social
It had been 60 years since Harold Hering had been on a bike. But at 72 years old, the retired Air Force pilot bought a flat-bar road bike to complement his running, a hobby he was introduced to just one year prior.
“I got into duathlon as a backdoor kind of thing,” says Hering, who explains that he intended to use cycling as a way to cross-train, especially because of the arthritis throughout his body.
But this Indianapolis resident has a competitive streak and doesn’t do anything small. The first time he rode his new bike was to test out a potential course. The second ride was his first duathlon.
Seven years later, Hering has competed in about 20 duathlons, including races on the national and world championship level, four full marathons and 20 half marathons. This weekend he’ll race at the 2014 Life Time USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships with hopes to qualify for the 2015 ITU Duathlon World Championships in Adelaide, Australia.
Duathlon has become a way of life for Hering and the multisport community has become family. He enjoys the social, physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the sport, he explains.
“It is pretty much my life. It really is. Because when we’re not going to events, I’m either training for them or thinking about them,” Hering says.
This journey all began after Hering retired from the Air Force and from his second job as a counselor with the Salvation Army.
“I had become a couch potato, my weight quickly went up and I was just miserable,” he says.
So at age 71, he began his weight loss journey by walking one mile and increasing the distance each day. He diligently stuck to this plan no matter the weather, and in just over four months, he had lost 55 pounds and was feeling healthier. When a neighbor suggested he consider racing a half marathon, he laughed. But just a few days later, Hering signed up for his first race.
He dove right in and has never looked back. His dedication to the sport, no matter what comes his way, amazes friends and training partners.
“He has overcome a lot of adversity to stay active in the sport, and he inspires me in that I hope I’m as active as him at that age,” says Michael Schwab, USA Triathlon Level I and Youth and Junior Certified Coach.
Whether Hering is facing medical issues or race-day challenges, he doesn’t give up.
One race, he crashed trying to make room for a passing rider. The official stopped to help him off the course, but Hering begged to continue.
“’I trained really hard for this and I wanted to finish,’ I told him. The medic came along and bandaged me up. And they let me go ahead and finish,” Hering says.
Hering was happy to complete the race, before heading to the hospital for stitches. While extreme at times, it’s this resiliency and determination that friends admire most.
“Any number of times he could have backed off or lessened, and maybe he should have, but that’s not really his style. He sees an obstacle or challenge and he puts his mind to overcoming it. It’s impressive to watch and it’s humbling to be a part of,” says Brian Schuetter, Hering’s friend and physical therapist.
Through everything Hering has overcome to participate in the sport, it’s the social aspect that really keeps him going.
“You meet such wonderful people. It’s really special,” Hering says. “There’s just a camaraderie out there that is really phenomenal.”
He also finds pride in representing his country on Team USA and has formed closed relationships with other duathletes across the world, including Russian competitor Boris Kirillov. Hering met Kirillov at the 2012 World Championships in Nancy, France, and they quickly hit it off.
“When I came across the finish line he was there with my wife to congratulate me, and he gave me the biggest bear hug I’ve ever received. That’s the kind of stuff you experience [in duathlon],” he says.