By Brianna Clabin
Western Michigan Alumnus, Chad Mahakian, will be representing the U.S. in the 2009 Maccabiah Games (Jewish Olympics).
Mahakian graduated in August from WMU, where he majored in exercise science.
“Running played a part in my decision to major in exercise, but I think the majority of my decision came from being active when I was growing up; and that was from my parents encouraging me to run and be active in sports,” he said. “Being active and living a healthy lifestyle was a way of life and it was something that I was interested in studying in college. “
Learning about running wasn’t Mahakian’s only interest at WMU; he wanted to compete as well. Naturally, he joined the running club.
“When I got to WMU in the fall of 2004 I found out where the club met and started running with them,” he said. “I knew that there would be people for me to run with since the cross-country and track program had recently been cut.”
“Joining the running club was a great experience especially as a freshman because I was able to meet a lot of people who shared the same interest as me,” he added. “Through my four years as a member of the club, I made a lot of friendships with people I am still close with today.”
Mahakian was not only a runner in the club but assumed some leadership roles.
“As the president I helped create a competitive running club team that had a coach and we would do local road races and compete at collegiate track meets,” he said.
Influenced by marathon running parents, Mahakian started running when he was in the fourth grade.
“I didn’t get serious about running till my junior year of high school when I joined the cross country and track team,” he said. “I started running cross country to be more conditioned for basketball but then began to enjoy running more than basketball. What I liked most about cross-country was that it was a team sport with an individual aspect to it.”
Mahakian has been running consistently and competitively for a little over seven years.
From running cross-country in high school to doing 5K runs, he has become a tri-athlete.
“I enjoyed doing 5k and 10k races but was looking for something that required more endurance,” he said.
With a yearning for more endurance he got involved in triathlons.
“I started doing triathlons three years ago because a veteran tri-athlete had been so nice to me,” Mahakian said.
“My friend, Dave Peterson, got me into triathlons,” he said. “He had done numerous triathlons and suggests that I get into the sport. At first I laughed at him because I could not swim but then I started to think about it and how it could be fun.”
“Dave became my triathlon mentor that summer by taking me on bike rides and even letting me borrow his bike for my first triathlon,” Mahakian added. “He introduced me to other tri-athletes, who were very nice to me and excited to see someone young getting into the sport, and taught me little tricks of the trade so I would be ready for my first race.”
“I don’t think I would be in love with triathlons today if it was not for the support that I got from the other tri-athletes when I started,” he said. “What drew me to the triathlon was that I knew I could run, but I was going to have to teach myself to swim and to ride at more than a recreational pace.”
Gearing up for his Olympic triathlon tryout, Mahakian competed in a number of triathlon sprint distance races (1/2 mile swim, 12-16 mile bike, and 5k run), one Olympic distance (1 mile swim, 25 mile bike and 6.2 mile run) and one Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run).
While on a run with another Jewish runner, he found out about the Maccabiah Games.
The Maccabiah Games are an international Jewish athletic event, held every four years in Israel.
“I was intrigued by the event so I went to the Web site and did some research. I found out that to try out for the triathlon team you had fill out an application and submit your best Olympic distance race time in the past six months,” he said.
“The problem was that I had never done an Olympic distance race before; I had done the Half Ironman and numerous sprint distances,” he added. “So I called the committee head that was going to be making the decision and he said that based on my times from the Half and the sprints I had an OK chance, but I would have a better chance if I had an Olympic distance time.”
“I began the search for a close Olympic distance race that I could still sign up and do,” Mahakian said. “I found one in Waterford, Mich. and registered for it. I had continued my training from the Half Ironman so I was still in pretty good shape.”
“To be considered for the Triathlon team they were looking for people to go under 2:30 and but even better would be 2:20,” he added. “I knew I was conditioned for the event but I did not know how fast I was going to be able to go. I finished the race in 2:18:44.”
With this record time Mahakian was chosen to represent the U.S. at the Maccabiah games.
“I was very honored and excited to be given the opportunity to represent my country at the Olympics,“ Mahakian said. “Triathlons and religion are a big part of my life so being given the chance to combine both of these passions really means a lot to me.”
Pursing passions sometimes isn’t cheap.
Mahakian and his brother, who is competing in the half marathon, are raising money to finance the trip to Israel.
“My brother and I have agreed to raise a combined total of $6,000,” he said. “So far we have raised $3,600 between our own money and donations from friends and family.”
“The money that we are raising goes towards the flight and accommodations for us as well as other athletes so everyone can have the chance to experience this great opportunity,” Mahakian said.
Donations can be made at www.maccaiusa.com.
The Maccabiah Games will be held July 13-23 in Israel. To find out more about Mahakian and his brother, bios, training progress, and game info can be read at www.mahakianrunning.com.