Jenkintown athlete prepares for his 10th Phila. Triathlon

Posted: June 20, 2014

Cliff Cheek competed in his first triathlon in 2001 on the recommendation of two doctors.

The first was his general physician, who noted Cheek's good health and athletic ability and suggested a triathlon as a way to expand his exercise repertoire. The second doctor was one of Cheek's friends, Richard Hamilton. Hamilton had raced in triathlons before, and he invited Cheek and another runner, Austin Meehan, to compete with him.

And just like that, the trio from Jenkintown participated in their first triathlon together in Stone Harbor, N.J. They didn't stop there. It became a passion for the three, a way to strengthen their friendship. The friends have competed in 30 triathlons and 75 endurance races, including an Ironman triathlon, in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.

"It's kind of an endurance event to do that many endurance events," Cheek said Monday.

On Sunday, Cheek will add another iron-man feat to his list. He will earn the distinction of being one of 15 people to have participated in the Philadelphia Triathlon in all 10 years of its existence. He has competed in the Olympic race (1,500-meter swim, 4-kilometer bicycle race, 10k run) each year.

It also will mark the first time Cheek will be competing without either of his friends in their local triathlon. Meehan stopped racing three years ago because of conflicts with work. Hamilton is in England this week with his daughter, Catherine, who will compete with Drexel's crew in the Henley Women's Regatta.

Cheek credits his longevity to his good health and understanding how to respond to his body. One injury can derail a training schedule, and once the schedule is interrupted, it's difficult to get back on track.

Cheek works in sales. He started waking up at 5 a.m. six days a week to train 10 years ago so he wouldn't miss time with his three young children. Now, his children are older, but his routine continues. He generally bikes, runs, and swims two days a week for each discipline and mixes in a weightlifting routine.

He plans to continue racing until his streak of being injury-free ends.

"I think he's probably doing better almost every year," Meehan said, "which is amazing. You're getting older, obviously. You would think at some point injury would catch up with you, but he seems to be able to beat that."

Cheek celebrated his 50th birthday Tuesday. He looks forward to finishing higher in his new age group.

Philadelphia Triathlon

When: Sprint triathlon, Saturday, 7:30 a.m.; Olympic triathlon, Sunday, 6:30 a.m.

Where: Fairmount Park along the Schuylkill.

Distances: Sprint triathlon, 800-meter swim, 25.3-kilometer bicycle, 5k run; Olympic triathlon, 1.5k swim, 40k bicycle, 10k run.

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