Ray Fauteux didn’t run away from his health issues – in a sense he ran with them and now he’s using his experience to turn around other people’s lives.
The 64-year marathoner, triathlete and author was in Red Deer this past weekend to sell a few books, promote his web site Ironstruck and tell a few stories about how running turned his world right side up.
“In 1976 I saw the Montreal Olympics marathon,” said the self-confessed smoker and drinker. “I sat on the couch a lot. Waldemar Cierpinski won that race and I thought, wow, it must be really cool to run that far and cross the finish line with those people cheering.”
He asked himself why he couldn’t run like that and embarked on his journey Jan. 1, 1977, running his first marathon six months later in Calgary posting a time of three hours and 28 minutes.
“I went out and ran another marathon a month later and was within ten seconds of my first time so I proved it wasn’t a fluke,” he said.
It was about seven months later he was watching TV and saw runners crossing what he thought was the finish line for a marathon when in fact it was the finish for the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.
He was hooked!
“These people are swimming 2.4 miles and they’re biking 112 miles and running a full marathon. I thought I was doing pretty good,” he said. “These people are nuts. I’ve got to do that.”
Even though he couldn’t swim a stroke, he saw a challenge dangling before him like a carrot and figured if he could quit smoking and run a marathon, why couldn’t he learn how to swim.
“I went to see a coach at the north Y in Calgary and I told him about this Ironman thing and he said if you want to do the Ironman thing you have to let go of the side of the pool,” he said.
He received an entry into the Ironman in Hawaii in 1984, completing the event in just over 14 hours.
“It was the most amazing day in my life,” he said.
Fauteux has not looked back ever since but his competitive running is behind him. He says he now only runs to stay in shape.
“I’m about two pounds heavier than my weight back then during my first marathon,” he pointed out.
He now has centered his life on putting pen to paper in order to explain what he did and how other couch potatoes can accomplish the same thing. The only thing holding people back from taking on this challenge is they don’t believe in themselves, he said.
“It’s a snowball effect once you start believing in your self,” he said. “Three laps around the gym turns into five miles around the gym and you say I can’t do this anymore, I have to take this outside which then becomes a marathon, which then becomes an Ironman.”
He added that there is no age restriction on tackling this task and when people balk at the suggestion of running a marathon after the swimming and biking he explained close to 99% of first timers don’t finish the marathon portion but simply try to get to the finish line somehow.
“It took me five triathlons to finally run the marathon from start to finish,” he said.
Fauteux says his motivation to motivate others comes his own realization of what potential for doing things he was wasting and how others are walking down the same road.
“I figured if I could do this then just about darn near anybody could do it,” he said. “I get e-mails all the time thanking me for this and that’s what motivates me.”