Seven years ago, Dan Inglima, 32 years old and 250 pounds, was on the sidelines at the St. Anthony's Triathlon in St. Petersburg, cheering for his sister-in-law.
"I'd never seen a triathlon,'' he told me this week. "I had chills running up and down my arms. I said, 'This is something I want to do.' ''
He went out to run a mile and found he couldn't even make it out of his Clearwater neighborhood. But he kept at it. Soon, he could go a mile without stopping. Then two, then three.
Then there was no stopping Dan.
In 2007 he did his first sprint triathlon (a shorter-distance event), and tackled the Olympic-distance St. Anthony's in 2008.
He'll be back next weekend. Maybe he'll beat his personal best time of 2 hours, 56 minutes. Maybe he won't.
What matters is that he'll do his best, and so will his son. Coleman, 11, is doing the Meek and Mighty sprint triathlon on Saturday. Little brother Connor, 9, and mom Mary, both runners, will cheer them on.
"You look at your life differently when you have kids,'' Dan said of his reaction to that first triathlon. "You want to be around to see them grow up.''
First came the running. Then he started eating better. Biking came easily. The swimming isn't his favorite, but he powers through. Now he's down to a fit 200 pounds.
When does he find time to do all this? He makes the time — in between managing a John Deere dealership more than an hour from home. Same goes for Mary, an HR director at a nursing home.
"It doesn't take a huge investment of time,'' he says. "You do a 5K or 10K run two or three days a week, a 20- to 25-mile bike ride. All the pools open at 5 a.m.''
You might get exhausted just hearing him. Or you could get energized.
Triathlons have become a way of life for the Inglimas. They've met like-minded families at races, and now they train together and socialize together. Spread out around Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties, these families have formed a triathlon team, Force Multisport. Check out their Facebook page and see what a great time the kids and grownups have together.
"We train very hard,'' Dan said. "We take it very seriously. But when we're done training, it's just fun.''
It's emotional, too. At one St. Anthony's, Dan was passed by another competitor, a double amputee running on high-tech spring legs. When he caught up, Dan thanked him for being an inspiration.
At a sprint triathlon in Clermont, Dan saw a 9-year-old girl, a double amputee, crawl into the water for the swim. Her mother met her at the end with her legs.
Dan didn't bother to try hiding the tears in his eyes.
"If people say they can't do it, they're just making an excuse,'' he told me. "You see all shapes, sizes and ages. It's an accomplishment every time you cross the finish line.''
Dan, who turns 39 in a few days, loves the fact that competitors' ages are marked on the back of their legs. "It's very inspiring when a 63-year-old man or 70-year-old lady passes you. I've been passed by 13-year-old kids — and my son already is faster than me!''
A few hours after we talked, news broke of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. I emailed Dan to ask if he had second thoughts about St. Anthony's.
"We both will be racing!'' came the reply. "As a proud American I would never let cowardly people keep me and my family from living in a free society.''
You go, Dan.