DECATUR – The Iron Man course is a real test of endurance.
It's a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.
“It's an all-day event,” said Chris Allen, a Decatur physical education teacher who just finished his second Iron Man on Sept. 13 in Madison, Wis.
Entrants get 17 hours to complete the event, beginning at 7 a.m. Allen's time wasn't as fast as he'd hoped, and he hasn't checked his exact time, but it was about 11 hours, he said.
“It's taken a lot of time and a lot of preparation,” he said. “I used to play college soccer, and due to injury, got into swimming and biking. It's kind of been a natural progression. Since being done with soccer, it's been my niche.”
Allen did his first triathlon in 2009 at the Rodney T. Miller Lakeside Triathlon in Decatur. Two years ago, he completed a half Iron Man.
He's a graduate of Eisenhower High School and Greenville College, where he majored in physical education, and holds a master's in kinesiology from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He graduated without being sure he wanted to teach, so he worked at Scheel's and as a personal trainer, but he kept feeling a pull toward teaching.
Last spring, the position in the Decatur School District opened up and he was hired.
“I haven't regretted it for a moment,” he said. “My faith is a big part of my life, and I think it was God's plan.”
He coaches soccer at Eisenhower in addition to teaching P.E. at Enterprise and South Shores schools, where his philosophy is to keep the kids moving the whole time he's with them. He's creative in finding ways to do that, and on a recent day, he provided hula hoops as part of the lesson.
His wife, Ashly, and his parents and brother accompanied him to the Iron Man to cheer him on, and that makes a lot of difference, he said. Having people encouraging him from the sidelines keeps him going. With that kind of physical effort, he also has to know enough about nutrition and his own body's needs to keep himself fueled as well.
Several other Decatur-area educators are triathletes, too. Jill Reedy, assistant regional superintendent of schools, got started after watching her husband, Bret, compete, while he was in turn inspired by fellow MacArthur High School teacher Beth McClure.