Posted by: Heart of America News | September 12, 2011

Mark Wahl – Ya Gotta Have Heart

By Ron Adkins, Heart of America News

Mark Wahl loves a challenge.

He first got into running triathlons because “it sounded like the hardest thing I could do. I was working in Daytona Beach and I saw an ad for a local triathlon. I thought it was a crazy thing to do.”

That was in 1985. Now, he runs 14 or 15 triathlons every year. “Skydiving was my life before tri’s,” he said. And spelunking. He and his buddies explored many of Florida’s caves for fun and excitement. “It’s hard to call running a tri fun when you’re doing it at the time, but they really are a lot of fun.”

Mark, a member of the Rock River Road Runners, doesn’t race for trophies or prize money. He races, instead, for fitness. “During the last few lines of the National Anthem, I’m pulling into the parking lot.”

And, he’s the first to admit his strengths and weaknesses. Mark considers himself a great swimmer and cyclist. “I pull ahead in the water and on the bike, but the pack catches me in the run. I will never be a great runner.”

“I think it would be cool to be around for my own autopsy to see exactly why I don’t run well,” he said. “But, I guess with what I went through, I did sort of get that opportunity.” In 2009, Mark was in Hawaii, where he had gone for a considerable swim and bike ride. He finished, feeling fine, but soon after started to cough. The cough persisted so long that he went to the doctor. An echo-cardiogram showed he had congestive heart failure, bad enough to warrant an immediate trip to the Mayo Clinic to have two new heart valves implanted. “I thought after that I would have to take up chess or something,” but, Mark said, he was running races a couple of months after his surgery and was running a marathon within a year.

His current project is to swim the entire Rock River – all 390 miles through Wisconsin and Illinois. After running the 2011 Ironman Wisconsin, he’ll finish the last 40 or so miles.

Mark doesn’t know what will challenge him next, but he’s looking forward to finding out.



  1. I’ve known Mark for many years and he’s an amazing role model and he has many people in the community willing to cheer him on with whatever he decides to do next.

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