Real Name: Thor Kirleis
Location: North of Boston, Massachusetts

Clearwater: Posing in front of an “Ironman 70.3 World Championship” banner on the outskirts of Transition the day before rocking on to a kickass finish of 4:43 with a bike split of 23.24 mph.

Born and raised on Long Island in New York, I had a soccer ball at my foot before I even learned to walk. Soccer continued to be a passion through my youth and into high school, where I was captain of the soccer team and elected to some pretty cool honors. But where I was good at one thing, something else had to give, and that would be my grades.

When it was time to go to college, I went to the one school of 12 that let me in — Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Funny because it was the one school of that collection that I did not want to go to. I started my college life at NU trying out for the soccer team. As good as I was in high school, college ball was different. College is best of the best. Coming in as a freshman, I made second tier – which meant you worked even harder but didn’t play unless two position players went down. During those first few weeks, it became apparent to me that there was a disconnect with the team and the type of student who played. That’s when I learned that there was a finite reason why there were a total of zero engineers on the team. After some soul searching, I came to the conclusion that I had to grow up, and part of growing up is making tough decsision, such as forgoing soccer so that I can study and get a job. So that’s what I did. During this time I was drafted by a club team (soccer) to play matches for fun against JV and Varsity college teams. We were there whipping boys. A part of my was still confused. I dearly wanted to play ball — and hey, maybe I’d impress somebody — while another part knew to give it up at the competitive level so that I can work on my grades, which was always something I had to work harder at than others. Still in my confused state of wanting to do well with my ball, I started running to get into better shape for soccer. The season came and went, we took it indoors, then outdoors again in the spring, and that was it. But I kept running because by then I realized how great a stress reliever from school it was.

My sister in law, a runner herself, one day suggested I do a road race. I did. And I had an amazing time and really enjoyed the people I met. One race turned to another, then another, before one day I decided to do a half marathon. Not even a few hours after crossing the finish line, I called my sister in law and asked if she ever desired to do a marathon. That call turned into us training for and completing our first marathon stride for stride, side by side, at Cape Cod Marathon. Bitten by the bug, I went on to run 14 marathons, including 4 or 5 Boston Marathons, with a personal best of 2:55.

Now completely burnt out, I took considerable time off before switching my passions back to soccer, where I started playing recreational ball a few times a week, which quickly turned into 6-7 times per week. I’ve always been a bit manical about my passions. That continued for many years when, luck may have it, I got in a nasty accident, severing cleanly a major nerve in my left leg, immediately cutting off all feeling and movement from below the knee. 5 and a half hours of surgury later, where doctors performed nerve grafting to fuse into the cut nerve, the doctors told me that I would likely never return to my normal sporting ways. I didn’t like to hear that. So I asked if there was anything I couldn’t do. The doctor laughed. “You can do whatever you want; it’s just that you won’t be *able* to do whatever you want.” I learned very quickly the doctor was right.

Unable to run or play soccer, I reaquainted myself with my bike. I strapped my dead foot into a pedal and went on to ride as if a new passion. A few years later, I was finally able to wrap my foot good enough to get back out running. I had to lift my left knee quite high so that I wouldn’t kick the ground with my drop foot left foot. Bad form or not, although it was tough to run, it felt good. Free at last. Miles piled up. Just when I thought I had seen the last of my marathon running days, I was now again contemplating running a marathon. Timing worked well, because by then I was dating a very special girl who’s thirtieth birthday was looming. I wanted to do something special for her and asked in a hidden way if there was anything she’s ever wanted to do or go. She said Europe. When I told her my intentions — of wanting to treat her to a special present on her milestone day — she went off and did some research. Finally she made up her mind. “How about Ireland? You can make your return to the marathon, because the Dublin Marathon is on the day of my birthday.” It was more fitting than she realized, because years earlier I had promised my recently departed grandfather, an Irishman in heart, that I would someday run the Dublin Marathon in his honor. That year I took my grandfather’s favorite wool cap, placed it on my head, and went on to run the Dublin Marathon in his honor as my special girl and I celebrated her birthday and my return to the marathon in Ireland.

Having qualified for Boston, I knew my run at marathons wouldn’t end with Dublin. But Boston wouldn’t be so kind. I bounced back and went on to nail a 3:08 in Toronto. During this time, my special girl talked me into doing a triathlon with her. That race, although I suffered on the swim, showed me that I was pretty good at it, and more importantly it showed me how fun triathlons can be. Dreams of Iron materialized. Marathons continued. To date I have run 36 marathons and completed two Ironman events, and although I have done many half Iron’s, I am also very proud to add that I have qualified for and competed in my first world event at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater, Florida. That race alone will keep me motivated to want to get an even greater taste of a world event at yet another level. And so I tri!

Sport me at my proudest moment…

Clearwater: Flying on air as I hammer down the finish chute at the IM 70.3 World Championship to a 20 minute PR at the 70.3 distance with a 2:43!

Private me at my proudest…

Clearwater: Me and the Ironmate pose in front of a spectacular sunset at Clearwater Beach the night of the race of my life.


2 Responses to About

  1. Brian Keno says:

    nice reading material! Very inspirational! Going to Almere as well. See you there

  2. Rachid Haoues says:

    Hey Thor,

    I am 20 years old and an avid athlete. Just like you soccer was my life and then once I went to college (Penn State), a 5k got me hooked on running. I’ve been running for the last three years.

    Anyway, I ran a couple half-marathons, (1:31) PR and was training to BQ at the Philly Marathon in November when I got stress fractures. I was bummed but, whatever, at the time I knew I would run again.

    However, in March while recovering from the sfx I suddenly developed drop foot and what doctors are telling me is an idiopathic peroneal nerve palsy. By idiopathic they mean that they just don’t know how it happened, just random. My foot slaps the ground and drags but I can still pull up my foot up, push it down and move it side to side just fine, the strength is still there but my walking gait is a bit weird with the slapping and dragging.

    So while they are trying to figure everything out, they’ve told me not to run, bike, or do anything that puts stress on the leg and peroneal nerve. They tell me it will heal over time. But I’m going crazy not being able to do anything! (I swim but I don’t really enjoy it) It’s been 8 weeks and an EMG test showed no signs of recovery but I’ve been told its super slow to heal.

    I read your blog about your injury and just wanted to know that I really appreciated it because it gives me hope that even if this thing doesn’t get better I will eventually still go out there and do the things I love and be able to perform at a high level (congrats on Boston and the Ironman)

    I have a couple questions for you though. When you started out running after the nerve injury, did you use any special foot brace or ankle brace? Also, did your doctor say it was okay for you to run and cycle because all the ones I’ve seen seem to think that would only make it worse for the time being? How did you keep your sanity during the year it took you to recover?

    And any advice on how to beat this would mean a lot to me, your the only person I’ve been able to find that has had this sort of injury and gone on to be just fine in competition and activity. Sorry for the length of the message. God bless and any answer is appreciated.


    Rachid H.

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