Swimming 3.8 kilometres, cycling 180.2 kilometres and running 42.295 kilometres - this is what it takes to become “Ironman”. The top level triathlon is a challenge to all great athletes. It is precisely this high-performance sports adventure that our Keller Sports Pro Raphael M’Barek wants to take part in next year. We will accompany him every step of the way and report back any news for you to read.

Starting with a New Year’s run in Munich, followed by several half-marathons and one or two full marathons, and finishing with Ironman on 13th August 2017, we will watch Raphael as he works towards his goal and give you insights into his training before and after each competition. Apart from that, we will be writing on different exciting topics to do with the fitness pro and his relationship with sports. Thanks to our partner Garmin, Raphael will be testing the Garmin Forerunner 735XT Bundle as he progresses towards the Ironman competition, and after a satisfactory testing phase will tell us what he thinks of this multifunctional triathlon watch. In this post we summarise the functions of the watch for you.

To begin with, we would like to help you get to know Raphael better by leading an interview in which we ask him about his motivations behind taking part in the Ironman 2017 challenge.

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Raphael, where did your passion for sports come from, and what sport did it all start with?

I remember that I used to go jogging with my dad when I was a kid. I couldn’t have been older than ten. I was probably a good excuse for him to only go for “short” runs. My passion for long-distance running came about when I was studying in Austria. As there was no running club there, I just chose one of the many beautiful routes there and set off. At the time, distances of around 10 k were my limit - looking back now, it seems funny. My passion for sports overall probably stems from my unrelenting desire to be better, to be faster, but the standard I aim for here is set by me. Beating myself and comparing myself to previous performances is one of my greatest motivations.

What are your reasons to take part in one running event after the next and compete in the Ironman challenge?

Taking part in events is something that started when I was a student in Copenhagen. I saw an advert at uni for the 2013 marathon and signed up for it. I simply read everything I could on the subject and tried to be as prepared for it as possible. I’d say that at no other moment do I feel so close and “connected” with myself. I even talk to myself in a formal way (mentally, of course). During an event I check how I feel, what my pace is, I encourage myself or curse myself for a moment, and so on. No other activity to date has ever led me to be in such a self-aware state.

What is different about Ironman for you?

I’ve been fascinated and impressed by the Ironman challenge for a long time now. I simply couldn’t imagine how people could complete such a difficult challenge, but at the time I felt the same way about marathons. You grow with your goals, and so today I see myself in a position to complete the necessary training and preparation to go to the starting line in 8 months’ time. What happens after that is up in the air, but that makes it all the more exciting.

What has been your greatest success to date during such events?

My first victory ever has been this year over a short distance charity run in Hamburg, where I took first place. I’ve taken part in several half-marathons and have completed 4 full marathons, but in Hamburg this year I achieved one of my goals, which was to finally beat a 3 hour marathon time - I ran through the finish with a time of 2:55. But more important for me are all the personal achievements I take home after every one of these events.

Do you have a specific time you’d like to achieve? What is it?

My biggest aim in this area was to beat the 3 hour mark - I’ve already managed that, but I will never stop trying to beat my own record. However, you eventually get into a situation where you can only make a little progress, even with all your training. Times like 2:50 hour or even 2:45 hours may still be possible, but it would take a really big effort to achieve. It is for this reason that I only really concentrate on specific times over short distances, like 10 k. For this I broke my own record of under 39 minutes last year, so the aim for the New Year’s run is a time of under 38 minutes. My dream would be 36 minutes - that would be my absolute DREAM.

What do you enjoy the most about running?

For me it’s the purest and most natural form of movement. It is in our nature to run and you barely need any equipment to do it. There are no time- or location restraints, so it is incredibly easy to do, and you can either run alone or in a running team. With music in your ears, or none at all. I can vary the intensity of my training depending on my current physical state and my mood, I can change the route at will or even run on a treadmill if I need to. Apart from all that, I see running as the most useful and effective kind of training there is, and it is suited to all levels and ages. What other sport can you think of that is this versatile?

Do you follow a specific diet? Do biscuits, Christmas dinner and alcohol fit into the picture at all?

Yes, of course they do! No biscuit tin is ever safe from me! Apart from that, I’m a bit of a foodie, and sweets are never missing from my diet. However, I do keep a close eye on what I eat in general. I try to make sure my diet is rich in protein and vegetables.

What motivates you to keep at it and work towards your sports goals?

That is a good question, but the answer is hard to explain in words. It is more of a very intense feeling, or rather an urge to move, to get exhausted and to progress. You can maybe picture it using a figurative labrador called Feli. If the dog doesn’t get its daily walk and doesn’t have a good playing session, it gets restless and hard to handle. With me it’s a similar case - I need my daily dose of movement and physical exhaustion, otherwise I feel unbalanced and my mood just gets worse and worse with every passing minute. It might be the rush of endorphins after an exhausting but well-controlled workout, I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one like this. Moreover, I’m absolutely convinced that this urge to move is hidden within us all, we just need to recognise it and act on it.

Thank you, Raphael, for this personal insight into your goals and motivations. We look forward to accompanying you on your way towards the Ironman challenge and telling everyone about your progress. We’d like to wish Raphael all the luck in the world for the coming events! This is a very promising 2017 running season indeed.

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