BY JOSH PERRY (@Josh_Perry10)
Wed, Nov 04, 2015
When Medfield resident Kevin Barton was recovering from running in the 2011 Boston Marathon, a friend approached him about trying something new and training for a triathlon. He quickly signed up for an Ironman 70.3 and took part in his first competitive triathlon.
Just about four years later and Barton has progressed further than he ever imagined. On Oct. 10, he jumped in the waters off the coast of Kona, Hawaii and competed with the best athletes in the world at the annual Ironman World Championships.
“I got into the sport just for the enjoyment of it,” said Barton last week, “and Kona was never even a thought in my mind until last year.”
In 2014, Barton missed qualifying for the world championships at an Ironman event in Lake Placid, N.Y. by five spots and about 10 minutes. Heading into this year’s event, Hawaii suddenly seemed like a possibility.
“I never swam, I bike a little bit but not a whole lot, so you kind of never know where it’s going to take you or how big you’re going to get,” he explained. “Each year I just went up a little bit.”
Barton took one of five spots available in the 40-44 age group and made plans for a trip to Kona in October. He did not go into the event thinking that he was going to win it, but instead to “stay steady and enjoy the day.”
The 140-mile course (2.4-mile open water swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26-mile run) includes choppy ocean water, runs along barren fields of coal-black lava, and temperatures soaring into the high 90s. Barton finished in 10:38.31, which was good for 139th in his age group, 675th among men, and 733rd overall.
“You’re racing against guys from every country in the world and also the speed at that race is so quick,” said Barton, who even two weeks later had not lost the awe and excitement of how it felt to be among the athletes in Kona.
“The atmosphere was incredible and racing in a race that you see on TV all the time was pretty cool…It was very cool to race at that speed and that was crazy seeing the best pros in the world up close.”
Barton took part in the Ironman despite battling plantar fasciitis and after a long year of competing he said that he would be taking a break and not trying for Kona next year.
“Maybe the year after I might,” he said with a laugh. “Hopefully I will get to Kona at some point, but it won’t be next year. I need to back off a little bit.”
He trains with a group of athletes at Breakthrough Performance Coaching and when asked why he gets into Ironman competitions, triathlons, or marathons, Barton does not talk about the physical challenges or testing his limits, but rather about the friends he has made and the people he has met during this journey.
“I just enjoy the sport,” he said. “I have a lot of terrific friends on that team and I do it for that not because I have something to prove or anything like that.”
“I just like to do it and I’ll keep on doing it until I don’t like it anymore.”