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The Ironman Cometh

Caroline Purtell

As Jim Loretta approached the end of more than 14 grueling hours of competition—comprising a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run—the waiting crowd formed two lanes along the street. Twenty-five yards before the finish, Loretta’s two daughters, 21-year-old Kristin and 14-year-old Mary Beth, flanked him and together they crossed the finish line as a disembodied voice announced, “Congratulations, Jim Loretta, you are an Ironman.”

For the 1969 graduate, who goes by the nickname “Rookie,” the Ironman moniker isn’t new. This race—the Coeur D’Alene in Idaho last June—was simply the latest in a growing list of remarkable endurance feats, all of which were borne of tragedy.

After his Miami home suffered tremendous damage from Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Loretta, a frequent jogger, found his increasingly long runs to be therapeutic. So he kept pushing himself. Less than a year later, he completed his first marathon—and has competed in 20 since. He participated in his first triathlon in 1993 and his first Ironman competition in 1999.

He now trains for 12 months, six days a week—swimming, spinning, weight training, biking, running—repeating the rosary and meditating to stay focused during the long training sessions.

And he’s not finished yet: Loretta’s next Ironman competition takes place in Arizona in April. “I can truly say the Ironman event was a spiritual experience for me as it definitely drew me closer to God,” he says.

“How can anyone deny the existence of God when you have a 59-year-old Muskie do an Ironman?”

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