How to Become a Triathlete

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Marion “Moose” Herring is a practicing orthopedic surgeon. He’s also a husband and a father. And there’s another known side of Marion: he’s an Ironman triathlete and a competitive long distance runner, and an excellent one at that. Marion won both the Watauga Lake and Giant Acorn Sprint triathlons a few years ago, was the overall masters winner in the Virginia Triathlon Series for two consecutive years and finished in the top 3 for his age group at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in 2014. He also qualified and ran the Boston Marathon last year. With at least four major long distance races planned for this year, the athlete is showing no signs of slowing down. Despite his many accomplishments on the racecourse, Marion remains humble and attributes his success to the support of those around him. In light of the New Year and establishing healthier routines, now seemed like the perfect time to catch up with Marion for some wisdom on goal setting, building a practical workout regimen and sources of inspiration.

Participating in a triathlon is no small task. What originally inspired you to start competing?

I swam all the way through college. I had to change my exercise routine to running during medical school and residency because it was the most efficient use of time. When I started my first practice in Boone, NC, I decided to combine the two. I started to race the shorter races and really enjoyed the competition. It allowed me to train and exercise with goals as races. When I moved to Richmond, I met Rob Green, a local chiropractor, and he convinced me to go long and try Ironman races and marathons. From that point till now, racing has been a vital part of my life.

You’ve competed in over 100 triathlons since then. What drives you to keep going?

I have competed in all distances and all over the world. Triathlons give me the opportunity to set goals and work toward them. I love the fact there are 3 different aspects. You need to balance time and energy on swimming and then be able to bike and run. When you decide to do Ironman, then you add in nutrition. All of these aspects take focus, commitment, and dedication to your goals. You can continue to see improvement despite an aging body. I love the fact that my kids can see me set high goals, make a plan to reach them, dedicate time and energy, and then either accomplish or fail them. Whether if I accomplish or fail them, it’s a process that continues again and again.

Do you have any particularly memorable racing moments?

2014 was an incredible year for me. My finish at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii was the most memorable.  My wife who had supported me all along the way was waiting at the finish.

Another memorable moment was my finish at Ironman Canada a few months before that in August. I realized coming down the finishing line that I had beat the 10-hour mark to qualify for Kona. My wife and kids were lining the fence and were jumping and hugging when they realized that I had reached a long time dream.

With such huge achievements, goal setting must be an important practice to you. Where does this come from?

I swam all the way through high school and my parents always made me set out certain goals. These goals were both attainable and non-attainable. Setting these goals ranging from easy to very difficult gave me the drive to keep training and working hard. I was fortunate to grow up in an environment with very encouraging and supportive parents.

The goals that are easily attainable, they are possible to get to on your own. For the ones that are unattainable, the big goals that you would never imagine getting to in a million years, they become possible with the support of your village, club and inspirational people to give you the extra push.

It’s a new year and many folks make resolutions to get back into the gym. What’s the best way to build a workout regimen and to stick with it?

1. Be realistic about your expectations

2. Choose something you like to do.

3. Get a group involved that would hold you accountable.

4. Start reasonable and build slowly.

5. Set goals by the months and by the year to keep focused.

Hearing you speak on training is very inspiring and it seems as if the ultimate reward for putting so much work into it is much greater than just participating in a few races.

I’ve recently started working with David and Grace Gallagher of the SpeakUp Foundation and 5k race. They are the parents of Cameron Gallagher who passed away after participating in the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach last year. The message of their foundation is to live life to the fullest, achieve goals, and treat people with respect. I just had my greatest athletic achievement thus far, participating in Kona, but David and Grace have inspired me more than participating in Kona ever will. As a result of my training, it has allowed me to become a better father, husband, athlete and doctor.

What major goals do you hope to accomplish in 2015?

My primary goal in life is to always maintain a balance between my family life, training, and work. Depending on the time of the year, one can take more time than the other and it’s easy to get off kilter. My goal is to always pursue these paths without having any suffer for the sake of the other.

I feel lucky to have a wife who supports my crazy dreams and goals, and kids who understand why I do what I do, whether I’m achieving success or failing. I always want to keep my wife and kids happy.

In regards to training and racing, I would love to qualify and go to Kona again. This year, I have more of a focus on being healthy every day, and using fitness for strength, balance and stress relief.

Work wise, my dad was also an orthopedic surgeon. One thing that set him apart was his passion for people. He used skills and compassion to become a great physician. To be the best sports medicine physician, it’s important to always be compassionate and think of the complete needs of my patients.

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