For many people, competing in an Ironman triathlon may seem impossible. That was Christopher Russell’s thought when the goal was presented to him a year before the event. His father laid out the challenge in November 2017. Christopher understood the enormity of the challenge, as he had watched his dad, mom and older brother each train and complete the same event in years past. Christopher began training that month, and over the next year, he trained his body and mind to be able to swim the 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles in a 17-hour window. He woke up daily at 4:30 am, 6-days a week, logging thousands of miles to build his endurance base and mental toughness to get through the Ironman. Week after week, he made the tough decisions required to prepare for this event. It was challenging to sacrifice the many social activities and free-time while still staying accountable to his academic performance.
As Christopher started to enter his last month of training, Hurricane Michael hit the host city, Panama City Beach. As he watched the converging storm directly hit, he saw his dream of becoming an Ironman slip away all but certain that the race would be canceled. Several days after the Hurricane passed, World Triathlon Corporation made the bold move to change the race venue and moved the entire event from Panama City Beach to Haines City Florida. The possibility of the event continuing was now a reality and Christopher had to adapt his training for the elevations of central Florida. Many would have pulled out of the race after training for a flat course and suddenly having to race on a hilly course with less than one month to train for the difference. But Christopher did not give up. He battled the hills on the bike and trudged through extreme downpouring rain during the run. He finished the 140.6 miles as the youngest participant in 13:36:59, achieving the goal of hearing “Christopher Russell, you are an Ironman!”