Written by By Khaleeq Ahmed, CNN
“Age is just a number.” But when that number is 78 and you’re an eight-time United States Triathlon Association national champion, not so much.
Norman Malave, race director for the Triathlon in Washington — an event that takes place in March each year — says that is his philosophy in life.
“I’m a tough guy,” says Malave, the only active male competitor in his age bracket at the event. “I am 78 years old. I’ve got to get through this, man.”
A degree in art history from Pennsylvania State University years ago wasn’t enough to relax the mild-mannered nature of Malave. But his competitive and competitive-minded nature was cemented when he started going to triathlons.
While Malave is used to having to prove himself, it’s all more challenging when you’re doing the same sport you’ve been doing all your life.
He doesn’t mind the demanding training regime but says he loves the teamwork aspect of the sport. And despite his age, he says he intends to keep doing them.
In 2002, Malave returned to his place on the Ironman World Championship podium , a feat achieved by only 19 other triathletes in the whole of history.
But success doesn’t define his life. For him, it’s more about the experience.
He is tireless about his field of passion: writing. “After Ironman, I retired, put on the tie and forgot about it. That is the longest I’ve ever ever retired. I loved writing stories. I wrote stories at the airport for years.”
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Spokesperson for Triathlon in WA
Not content with his writing, he wanted to be involved in triathlons, something which would empower children. And as the only active competitor in his age bracket, he decided it would be right to run an event that would give youngsters a chance to realize that dreams come true.
Traditionally, he remembers, once the children age out of the water, they stop competing because there’s no swimming next. The answer is simple: “When kids start going to the race, the water stops and they continue the race, and that’s the end.”
With his triathlon background and organizational experience, he approached an investment firm about setting up the Triathlon in Washington in 2012, garnering interest from the governor of the state, until they backed down when they learned he was 78.
“They didn’t want to sell to someone that was running marathons in their 80s,” he recalls. “I don’t see why not. I’m running in my 80s. I told them, ‘I am running triathlons in my 80s.'”
He made the event happen, since it’s paid for by sponsors. The first race will take place in March, giving the sport’s first-time entrants the chance to get fit in their early 20s. Malave’s ‘Happy TRS races’ will be a kind of P90X for men in their 80s and 90s.
Malave is also working as a representative to the International Triathlon Union (ITU), helping get more products into a more international market.
But his biggest ambition is having a TV show. He’s been approached to host his own series, which was filmed last year but hasn’t been aired because the TV networks couldn’t find the right concept.