One Man’s Experiences with Extreme Sports

 

Terri’s goal was to finally make it in under seven hours. More than a mile of swimming, fifty-six miles of cycling, and a half marathon loomed ahead—each one a battle that pitted will and endurance against exhaustion and the inner voice that whispers, “Give in.” Terri couldn’t fail, however; she had her friend Chuck Abbott racing alongside her.

“My love is helping people cross a seemingly impossible finish line,” says Chuck. His passion for helping others achieve their goals began many years ago with a singular desire of his own—to move beyond the threshold of safety and grasp the ever-elusive adrenaline high.

At the age of thirty-six, Chuck set his sights on skydiving. The exhilarating rush of plummeting toward the vast Las Vegas desert thousands of feet below drove him to complete over one hundred jumps in just two years. “I was hooked and hooked bad,” Chuck remembers. But in February of 1997, a picturesque sunset jump ended in horror when he landed back-first—crushing three vertebrae.

“God knew exactly what He was doing, and I’m so glad He slammed me into the ground that day,” Chuck says. The accident spotlighted the harsh truth that he was neglecting his teenage son Steve to go skydiving. Doctors also discovered that Chuck had early onset osteoporosis. After two surgeries, rehabilitation, and other treatments, Chuck was deemed healthy.

Six years later—while flying firmly strapped into an airplane seat—Chuck read an article about a forty-year-old woman who had just finished her first marathon while raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Seeking a new challenge in his forties and wanting to help a great cause, Chuck decided to follow her example. He enlisted his brother, and together they began training for the grueling 26.2-mile run.

In early 2004, Chuck and his brother triumphantly crossed the finish line—feet numb and bleeding. “Like a lot of people, even though the rush was there, the next day was so painful that we both said ‘no way’ to ever doing that again,” Chuck says. But the pain soon abated, and Chuck was back on the road, putting the miles behind him one step at a time.

Not long after completing his fourth marathon, Chuck became a certified marathon coach. He and his runners often took to the road before the sun dried the morning dew. “The most joy I have is helping someone in their sixties or seventies—with little or no physical endurance—finish a marathon,” says Chuck. Coaching eventually became a part of his next adventure: triathlons.

To date, Chuck has completed nine full marathons, four half-marathons, and twenty-four triathlons, all while raising $100,000 for the LLS. In 2007 he participated in the Ironman Triathlon—a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run. Tucked in his pocket was a picture of his son Steve, dressed in full army combat gear.

“Anytime I was starting to feel sorry for myself, I could look at him and be reminded just how good I had it and how I was free to do something this crazy due to people like him serving our great country,” Chuck says. Bringing others along on his journey is a practice Chuck has taken to heart.

Last October, Terri and Chuck crossed the finish line in Austin at the Ironman 70.3 in a time of six hours and fifty-four minutes. A blazing smile spread across Terri’s face as she broke the seven-hour mark. And while Chuck didn’t race his fastest, seeing his friend succeed makes chasing that adrenaline rush even better.

By Tiffany R. White
Photos by Shelley Dormont

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