Hunter Lussis athletic accomplishments are impressive. Just 16 years old, he already has completed 35 triathlons. At 13, he completed his first Ironman distance triathlona 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile runand is believed to be one of the youngest people to accomplish that feat.
Despite the number of miles he has logged, Lussi, of Kensington, Md. (pop. 1,873), wasnt always the athletic type. By his own account, he once was the chubby one in his super-athletic familyboth of his parents are avid triathletes, and today his two younger siblings are devoted soccer players. But Lussis sedentary ways began to change in 2000, when, at age 6, he watched his father, Craig Lussi, train for and complete an Ironman. It was then that the youngster made up his mind to complete a race of his own. Starting slowly, with his dad alongside for support and guidance, Lussi participated in numerous short races over the next few years to build his speed and stamina.
When were exercising with our kids, they know we are making a real physical effort to spend time with them, the elder Lussi says. And as parents we feel it is our responsibility to make sure our children know how to keep themselves as healthy and as happy as possible.
When Lussi was 13, his race director, Bob Bowman, thought the teen was ready to participate in an Ironman. Hunter proved him right and finished the 2007 ChesapeakeMan Ultra Distance Triathlon, in Cambridge, Md., in 15 hours, 27 minutes, making him the youngest person ever to complete such a race. Since then, he has competed annually in the ChesapeakeMan, slicing nearly two hours off his time with each race and finishing first in his age group each time. He is one of the most determined young men Ive ever seen, Bowman says.
The same year he finished his first Ironman, Lussi learned in history class about a famous family that, like his, was particularly devoted to health and fitness. As he discovered, President John F. Kennedy launched a national physical fitness program, and his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics. Inspired, Lussi launched Americas Tri for Health (www.americastriforhealth.com) in 2009 to try to rally families to get off the couch the way the Kennedy family initiatives had some 50 years earlier.
Americas Tri for Health, a unique triathlon challenge scheduled each Labor Day, encourages Americans to complete a three-part event that works for them. Participants can paddle instead of swim, for example, spin on a stationary bicycle instead of bike, walk instead of run, or simply complete one leg of the race in a relay with others.
Lussi hopes that the community aspect of the triathlon will motivate people to get moving the way his family inspired him to get off the couch. I want people to get out there and be active with family and friends, knowing that thousands of people across the country are in it with you, he says. Its a lot more fun to exercise with others.