Wittenberg graduates Beth Hagen, class of 2001, and Jesse King, class of 2006, were both biology majors with minors in chemistry during their time at Wittenberg. But that isn’t all they have in common. Both recently completed the Ironman Arizona triathlon race, which consisted of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run, all adding up to 140.6 miles.
Hagen finished in a time of 12:33:17 for 24th place in her age group, and, after accumulating points from Ironman Arizona and Ironman 70.3 Arizona, she was fast enough to earn All-World Athlete status. This means she was within the top 10 percent of her age group. King finished in the top 10 of the men’s 35-39 age group, consisting of 319 athletes, and was the 58th finisher overall out of 3,275 participants with an official time of nine hours and 38 minutes.
Together, Hagen and King had to train at the highest levels in order to tackle such an impressive race. Hagen, who also earned a minor in environmental studies at Wittenberg, never competed in sports in high school or college, while King was a varsity soccer player, ran track and field, and was a member of club wrestling at Wittenberg.
According to Hagen, who is originally from Columbus, Ohio, “Training for an Ironman can easily turn into a 15-to-20-hour-a-week commitment.” And with kids to take care of, she had to be creative about her training, often taking paths that led to places she needed to be, such as her daughter’s soccer field.
King lives in Boulder, Colorado, a city where “they plow the bike trails before the roads!” This certainly gave him an advantage in training. He felt good going into the race, but unfortunately learned that training isn’t everything when a malfunction on his bike caused him to be stuck in the wrong gear for the last leg. Luckily, he was able to look past it and is pleased with his overall result.
When asked about her time at Wittenberg, Hagen reflected, “In many ways, training for an Ironman is similar to tackling an undergraduate degree in that you have a single long-term goal… I read so many books on training, nutrition, motivation, etc. that I sometimes felt like I was back at Wittenberg preparing for a final exam.” She also wanted to recognize the late Professor of Biology Horton Hobbs for being a “mentor and friend” and for helping her realize that she wanted to become a biologist. When asked simply, “Why Wittenberg?” her answer was just as simple, speaking to the “gut feeling” she had the moment she stepped on campus for a visit.
King also said thank you to a past biology professor, Jim Welch, for allowing him to “pursue research on the brewing process, a long-time hobby and passion of mine. This eventually evolved into a career in the beverage industry where I get to travel the world and get paid to do what I enjoy!”
King’s triathlon career started at Wittenberg with a short-distance race that his roommates and he “showed up for after a very long night out sophomore year.” Needless to say, their performance was not as good as at the Ironman, but they still had fun, and the experience sparked King’s joy for the race. When asked “Why Wittenberg?” he said that “Wittenberg is all about the people.” He noted that his first triathlon wouldn’t have been quite as fun without his roommates beside him.
Of course, no runner stops with just one race. While King is mostly looking to race in as many exotic places to add to his list, which includes the United States, Austria, Mexico, and Denmark, Hagen is focusing more on specifics, saying “This year I’m focusing on half-distance Ironman triathlons starting with Ironman 70.3 Oceanside in Oceanside, California, in April and ending the triathlon season with Ironman 70.3 Arizona in October. I definitely see myself doing another full Ironman in the near future.” She also plans on running the highly anticipated Boston Marathon in 2020, a race she has qualified for twice in the past.
By Emma Seibert ’21, University Communications
Main photo by Daniel Llorente on Unsplash