Posted by: Dennis Green | March 24, 2011

How To Raise A Triathlete

This year’s Quad Cities Triathlon will feature one racer who literally has been involved in racing since before he could even walk.

Joshua Kwak began his running career in the seat of his dad Steve’s stroller, crossing the finish line in dozens of 5 and 10K races.  But it wasn’t long till he was climbing out of the stroller and running alongside dad for longer and longer distances, finally surrendering the stroller seat completely to his little sister by the time he was six or so. It also wasn’t much longer before Joshua added swimming to his fitness regimen, joining an age group team when he was eight.

In 2009, when Joshua was eleven, his uncle Christopher, a marathoner, had just finished his first triathlon, and asked Joshua if he would like to try one. Joshua enthusiastically said yes.  Uncle Chris gave him a book on triathlon training for Christmas that year and in the spring, Joshua started doing run and bike training with his dad.

The ensuing months must have seemed an eternity to a pre-teen, but finally August 2010, and the Naperville Triathlon arrived.  Joshua headed for the beach, leaving Steve and his mom Kris, to watch anxiously.

“I knew he could easily finish the 400 meter swim on his own,” recalls Steve, “It was the mass of people in the water that concerned me. Later I realized this fear was not necessary, as the lifeguards monitoring the event took away any concern.”

Any fears his parents had were allayed when Joshua  burst out of the water, his face split by a gigantic grin, and headed into transition.

By the time he started the run, Steve says Joshua had become something of a race celebrity. “Each runner had their age tagged on their left calf… as Joshua passed other runners, and as a few passed him… nearly all asked him if he was really 12, and passed on shouts of support and encouragement.  My favorite moment was when he passed a teenage girl cheering section and they followed him from the side of the road for a time cheering Joshua on by calling his number and screaming.”

Heady stuff for a 12-year-old.

Upon finishing (strong, of course), Joshua looked up into Steve’s proud eyes and said “Dad, I’ll be doing triathlons the rest of my life.”

And as many of us have learned over the years, the fever is catching.  This year’s Quad Cities race will feature not only Joshua, Uncles Chris & Jim along with cousin Claire, but one more Kwak.  Inspired by the example of his son, Steve got into the water the day after Joshua’s first race and began the process of teaching himself to swim.

And on June 18, Steve will proudly line up on the beach at his now-veteran son’s side, and complete the circle begun in a stroller, not many years, but many happy miles ago.

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