We sat down with Will Turner over a cup of coffee before a run; we hope you will too.
One may think it’s about sheer ability, but that’s not it. It’s about allowing the mind to not just consider, but to truly believe “I can do this”. We are all limited by our inability to think to the power of our potential. The world may have said “ you can’t do that”, “that’s too much” or “ that’s impossible”.
-Jeff Miller/ excerpt from foreword of Journey to 100, a book about Will Turner that chronicles his epic adventure to complete 100 ironmans in 2 years in celebration of his 60th birthday.
Will Turner holds the world record for completing 105 Ironmans in 2 years. Not only is he a formidable athlete, coach and mentor, Will is equally inspiring as he is poetic.
Here is our Q&A:
norda: How and why did you get into endurance sports/running?
Will Turner: I started running in my early 20’s as a way to stay in shape and have a healthy lifestyle. I didn’t begin pushing the endurance envelope, which was training for my first marathon, until I was 44-years old though. I wanted to support a friend who was struggling with a brain tumor. His wife, one of my dearest friends, was looking for someone to run a marathon with to raise money for a local brain tumor charity. We met for a trail run to discuss and by the end of the run, I was all in.
From that first marathon, I’ve never looked back. I’ve had a love affair with ‘going long’ and pushing my endurance engine for almost two decades now.
norda: What’s your running mantra/ What do you run for?
Will: I have had a number of mantras over the years, but two really stand out from the last few years. The first is “Believe, Endure, Become” which I think strips down the essence of my running journey. We have to believe in ourselves, we have to endure and put in the hard work which, in turn, shapes who we are and who we can become. The second mantra that resonates with me was my theme for my Journey To 100, “Live Your Bold.” To me, this mantra is all about stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself. Both these mantras tie into why I run. I run because it reminds me to always strive to be the best version of myself.
norda: Tell us about your favourite run experiences.
Will: That’s really difficult to narrow down; I’ve literally been running for the past 40+ years. Some of my favorite running experiences have been because of the stunning locations I’ve been able to run in including some amazing national parks in the U.S. and Canada, like the Grand Tetons, Death Valley, Glacier, Denali, Jasper and Banff.
Other times, the running experience is amazing, not for the epic location, but more because of the people I’m running with. During the pandemic, I was able to run with my 32-yearl old nephew and help him train for his first marathon and 50K, all in the span of about six months. I wouldn’t’ trade that experience for anything. I love being able to share my love for running and see it ignited in someone else.
norda: What motivated you to complete 105 Ironman in 2 years?
Will: I was looking for a big personal challenge that was going to push and test me beyond anything I’d done before. I also wanted to create an opportunity to help others on my journey.
The original goal was to do six ironman or full-distance triathlons (each a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile marathon run) in the year I was turning 60-years old. Long story short, I ended up multiplying that goal by 10 and coming up with a goal of 60 full-distance triathlons in one year which I called Sixty@60.
While I was doing the Ironman races, many on my own (since there are not that many official Ironman races in a year), I was also helping others through my “Live Your Bold” Movement. I spoke to school groups, sports teams and other groups to spread the “Live Your Bold” message as I traveled around the country. I also provided some virtual training and support for anyone interested in being a “Boldness Badass.”
At the end of the first year, my sherpa and partner in the journey, Chris, told me that we couldn’t’ quit. He successfully pleaded that we had more work to do, particularly with the children we were reaching. So, we decided to continue the journey with a goal to complete 100 Ironman races in two years.
But early into that second year, Chris got an unexpected diagnosis of kidney cancer. We put an indefinite pause on the journey for almost four months as Chris underwent his surgery and his recovery. Once his health was stable, we resumed the journey and pushed hard to make up for lost time. There was a renewed passion and appreciation (post-cancer) from both of us to live boldly and go after the original goal of 100.
I ended up giving it all I had to finish the second year strong, including three doubles (two races back-to-back in two days) in December of 2019, giving me a total of 105 completed full-distance triathlons in two years. At the time, the official Guinness World Record for most Ironman races completed in a year was 44, so I “unofficially” beat the world record for two consecutive years; with 60 races completed in 2018 and 45 races completed in 2019.
norda: How did you do it? What was your schedule like?
Will: Aside from the cancer interruption, the schedule was to complete an Ironman, on average, every 6 to 7 days. We traveled around in a little tear-drop camper throughout the U.S. and Canada. Chris took the lead in handling race logistics and helping to come up with my courses, when we weren’t doing an “official” race. And since Chris is a big fan of going big and epic, most of the races he created were in stunning mountain locations.
The good news is that Chris is an amazing photographer, and he captured the magnificent beauty of these locations. The bad news, for me, was I was swimming, biking and running on really tough courses with lots of altitude, elevation and climbing, so I was working extra hard for most of my races. In fact, my on-my-own races were much tougher than any of the ‘official’ races I participated in.
The schedule was pretty crazy at times. In the first year, for example, we averaged over 1,300 miles of driving per week, in addition to completing a race every six days. I was also working virtually since there were no big sponsors to cover the expenses of the journey. Luckily, I was adept at working remotely long before COVID. To get it all done, it boiled down to focus, prioritising and scheduling, while eliminating unnecessary distractions.
norda: How did you fuel?
Will: Fuelling changed a bit over the course of the two years. I gradually shifted from the typical sports nutrition of gels blocks, etc. to more real food. And my feeding intervals stretched out longer in the process. My body definitely adapted to fewer feedings with more calories in those feeding zones. Mostly, I paid attention to my body and gave it what it needed.
Hydration is a big issue for me as I am very dehydration-challenged in hot conditions. So, staying on top of my fluid intake was critical. And of course, recovery was huge because I was turning around and completing another race in short order. My go-to recovery drink at the end of every race was chocolate Endurox R4 mix combined with almond milk.
norda: Do you listen to music, podcasts, audio books while running?
Will: No, when it comes to running, I’m a purist. Running is my time to get lost in my own thoughts and to connect with nature. I try to be very present in the moment; taking in the sounds, sights and experiences I’m immersed in. I’ve run in some pretty amazing places and it always leaves me feeling awe-struck, blessed and humble.
norda: You are a trainer and coach. Tell us about that.
Will: I love sharing my passion and helping others. For the past 20 years, I’ve worked with sales and leadership team in different areas of peak performance. And for about the last decade, I’ve also been a sports endurance and triathlon coach. There are a lot of parallels in those two worlds when it comes to goal achievement, growth mindset, productivity, perseverance and mental preparedness.
When it comes to peak performance, I can get pretty geeky. I love studying the research, extrapolating the real-world applications and figuring out what works best and why. And seeing my clients have life-changing breakthroughs is the ultimate reward that fuels my passion.
Photos @chris deStefano