Heading to the finish line at the Solana Beach Triathlon

Heading to the finish line at the Solana Beach Triathlon

Bill Bell has competed in 32 Ironman triathlons and 33 half Ironman races. He has completed 158 marathons and ultra runs (between 26.2 and 52.4 miles); and two Ultraman 3 day triathlons (6 mile swim, 250 mile bike, and 52.4 miles run – yes, all in one day). He has ridden his bike across the country as part of the four-man Iron Gents relay team. Twice.

And he started when he was 54. Bill is now 89 years old and celebrated his recent birthday with 16 biking buddies, adding a few more miles to his resume. He is truly an inspiration to us all.

Bill was not an athlete in his younger years. His current routine sprouted at the age of 15 when he woke at 4:30 every morning to ride his two paper routes. He also used to swim the piers with his friends, but it wasn’t until 50 years later that he “got his letterman’s jacket,” as he is fond of saying.
In 1976, a stress test showed a slight murmur in Bill’s heart. His doctor prescribed medication and 40 minutes of jogging three times a week. After his third week, he was hooked. His doctor blessed his request to run every day and the rest is history.

He finished his first marathon at 59 and one year later participated in his first Ironman. His accomplishments include: five World Champion honors at Kona Ironman Triathlon in the 70 – 79 age group; eight first place finishes in his age group in San Francisco’s Escape from Alcatraz swim; and three age group wins at the world’s toughest triathlon in Lake Tahoe.

Bill’s 89th birthday t-shirt and cake designed by his daughter, Barbie Labadie.

He is the oldest man to have finished the California Triathlon in the 17 hour time limit at 78 years old in 2001. He has been featured on Conan O’Brien, the Bill O’Reilly Show and the Rosie O’Donnell Show. He was one of the first to be sponsored by PowerBar and still is today. When asked what sets him apart, Bell says, “There is one word that I have excluded from my vocabulary my entire life – ‘can’t’. You can do anything you put your mind to and it’s never too late to start.”

Where does Bill recommend we begin? “Just get out and walk – not at the mall – but in our beautiful desert environment. You will feel good. Listen to your body and do what you can. There is always tomorrow to do a little more.”

Bill and his wife, Margie, live in Palm Desert and have been married for 65 years. When is he slowing down? “In life, if you finish, you win. God gave me this body and he’s the one who will tell me when it’s time to stop.” Bill, however, just submitted his application to extend his PowerBar sponsorship for two more years.

You can meet Bill and hear his inspiring story on January 23rd from 2:00p.m. to 3:00p.m. at Eisenhower’s Argyros Health Center in La Quinta. Call 760-610-7205 for more information or to make a reservation.

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