Madison, Ind., runner Kahl defies age, overcomes illness to keep going
The 80-year-old is honored as Ironman All World Athlete
Kurt Kahl, an 80-year-old Madison, Ind., lifelong runner and athlete, has been named among the 2017 Ironman All World Athlete Champions for his age group after successfully competing in multiple triathlon and Ironman events last year.
Kahl earned the honor by compiling Age Group Ranking points during the 2017 season. Runners were rewarded for their top three performances throughout the year with the combined points determining the champion for each division.
Kurt Kahl of Madison, Ind., is all smiles after finishing one of his many races. He overcame cancer to continue racing.
The 29 overall Ironman All World Athlete Champions represented 10 different countries with nine champions from the United States – six female and three males, including Kahl, who won the Males age 80-94 category.
The Ironman Triathlon is a well known race all around the world, whether it be a half Ironman or the full Ironman. Kahl has competed in several of them and has always been some type of athlete all through his life. Whether it was swimming, football or wrestling, he has always been active.
In Kahl’s younger years, he participated in football and swimming in high school and wrestling in college. Around 50, he decided he wanted to try to do the Ironman, which was held in Hawaii. The Ironman Triathlon consists of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles – 17 hours in total, all done in one day. After 30 years of doing Ironman events, Kahl has now completed a total of 54, including half Ironmans, since he started. And he’s still counting.
“I started training a few years before my 50th because you have to qualify each year to go to Hawaii. You have to either get first place or make it to a qualifying event for the Ironman to go to Hawaii. I have done Hawaii 18 times,” Kahl said during a phone interview.
Kahl is currently in Florida training for the next Ironman. The training consists of lots of rigorous practice, training a six-day a week routine.
“You have to run marathons and run several of those to get started, and get competitive at swimming. You have to bike 100-120 miles a week, do 120 swimming laps a week, run 26 miles a week, and lift weights one or two times a week,” Kahl said.
Kahl didn’t do all this on his own, however. Rick Simpson, his mentor, won previous Ironmans and offered to help Kahl.
“He has won Ironman Hawaii a number of times, and he offered to coach me. He gave me some hints to help me be better at what I’m doing and tells me what type of training I should be doing as well. He is the winner of the 65-69 group,” Kahl said.
Even with this intense training, the triathlon is not easy. Over the years, the rules for the triathlon have become stricter.
“You have to make the swim in two hours and 20 minutes, and if you don’t make it, they cut you from the course or give you a ‘did not finish.’ You then have to be at the bike and finish by 5:30 p.m. or they cut it off, and you can’t do the run if you aren’t there by 5:30,” Kahl said.
Kurt Kahl poses for a photo after finishing the Ironman in Hawaii in 2016.
During the triathlon, the competitors all get a chip on their leg so they can be tracked by supporters and race officials.
“My most favorite I’ve ever had was Hawaii. I had my best times there, when I was 55. My best time was 12 hours, 27 minutes and 16 seconds,” Kahl said.
In 2012, Kahl had his world turned upside down when he was diagnosed with the cancer, Mantle Cell Lymphoma. But it did not slow him down.
“I’ve taken 31/2 years of chemo, and right now I’m in remission. My oncologist says keep bringing her metals. She wants me to keep doing that, and so that’s what I did. It was hard when I was doing the chemo. I’ve been off of it for a year or so, so it’s really nice not have to go and take chemo all the time. Once you take chemo, you can’t do much for a day or so, or at the most, two weeks. They were nice enough to plan the chemo around my races. I wouldn’t take it before the race; I would take it after the race,” Kahl said.
After dealing with all of that, Kahl still won his age group at the Ironman race.
“It’s an all world competition. They have the set up where the top 1 percent is gold, the top 5 percent, is silver, and the bronze is the top 10 percent. I’m lucky to have made the top 1 percent; lucky to be here to be able to do that,” Kahl said.
Out of all the Ironmans in which Kahl has participated, he has one favorite that sticks out.
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