by Tania Karas for The Wall Street Journal
Aaron Kwittken knows a thing or two about keeping his cool in the face of challenges. The 41-year-old marketing executive specializes guiding major companies through public-relations crises. Mr. Kwittken is also a triathlete. Next Saturday, he’ll compete in the inaugural New York-area Ironman U.S. Championship, a 140.6-mile race comprising a 2.4-mile swim in the Hudson, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run that starts in New Jersey and ends in Manhattan’s Riverside Park.
He is racing to support Center Lane, a program for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning teens that is run by Westchester Jewish Community Services, where he has been a board member for the past eight years. Center Lane provides 13- to 21-year-olds with counseling and teams up with local centers and schools. The program has been hurt by recent cutbacks in government funding and fewer private donations in recent years. The money Mr. Kwittken raises will keep Center Lane operational for one full year.
“Whatever pain I experience during the course, it’s nowhere near the pain gay and lesbian adolescents suffer because they don’t have the proper support,” Mr. Kwittken says. “That puts it all in perspective.” Mr. Kwittken began training for the race in December and has put in more than 400 hours of biking, running and swimming since then. At the offices of Kwittken & Co., the public-relations and marketing agency he co-founded, he renamed the three conference rooms “swim,” “bike” and “run.”
“It’s not for sane people,” he says of his intense training regimen. At his peak, he was training 18 hours per week, often in four- to seven-hour stretches, at various recreation centers throughout Armonk, N.Y., where he lives. It often required waking up at 4:30 a.m. to get in a 3,600-yard swim or 30-mile bike ride before work. Weekend sessions were even more intense, sometimes requiring a 50-mile bike ride and 10-mile run—back-to-back.
“It’s the adrenaline,” says Mr. Kwittken. “It’s the industry I’m in, it’s being an entrepreneur and an adrenaline junkie, it’s the taste for a challenge and adventure. This race brings it all together.” A few days before the competition, he exceeded his $25,000 goal. Mr. Kwittken himself has committed $5,000 to the cause. “And my body,” he notes. Mr. Kwittken got his start in triathlons in 2008, after his father died of congestive heart failure. Since then, he has participated in 20 triathlons, including the Olympic-distance New York City Triathlon and the 70.3-mile West Chester Toughman.
He calls the Ironman the “ultimate race,” the one he has been building toward for the past several years. “I have one Ironman in my lifetime,” Mr. Kwittken says. “I knew that if I’m going to do this, I needed to raise money for a good cause.” Although he hopes to complete the course in 14 hours, three hours under the allotted 17, he says his main goal is to simply cross the finish line.
“If I have to crawl, I’m going to crawl,” he says.
- Article Source: The Wall Street Journal
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