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 KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii, Sept. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Pat Rummerfield has beaten the odds before, but now he faces a challenge so demanding it may lie even beyond his determined grasp. On Oct. 10, Rummerfield, a man doctors predicted never would walk again, will attempt to complete the Gatorade Ironman Triathlon World Championship, the world's premier endurance athletic event.
 The 38-year-old Wyoming resident will join a field of 1,400 triathletes in Kona, Hawaii, for triathlon's championship. The event requires contestants to complete a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run.
 Rummerfield received an invitation to compete in Kona after submitting a handwritten plea to Ironman organizers. Most professional and amateur triathletes must qualify for the Gatorade Ironman at one of 19 triathlons held around the world, but Ironman officials also traditionally consider special requests to enter the race.
 "The glory will come from participating in the competition," says Rummerfield. "Finishing Ironman would be icing on the cake. I see competing as a big victory that has grown out of a lot of small victories through the years."
 Kona, Hawaii, and the Gatorade Ironman exist a lifetime away from the high-speed crash that nearly killed Rummerfield in 1974. Admittedly, he and a friend had been drinking. Near Kellogg, Idaho, their 1963 Corvette left the road at 135 mph, went into a ditch and flipped three times.
 The friend, who had been driving, walked away from the crash with a chipped tooth. Rummerfield nearly never walked anywhere. His neck broke in four places. His ribs crumbled. It took 150 stitches to close wounds on his face.
 Neurologists and orthopedic surgeons first told Rummerfield's parents he would live only about three days. After eight days, they said he would live, but predicted he would be paralyzed from the neck down with no hope of recovery.
 Three months later, just out of a full body cast, Rummerfield wiggled a toe. It triggered a recovery doctors can't explain. After 18 years of physical therapy, Rummerfield still has some nerve damage and weakness in the right side of his body, but otherwise, he has made a miraculous recovery. A safety engineer at a coal mining operation, he and his wife Connie have been married for 10 years and have two daughters, Breanna, 7, and Hailee, 5.
 "I'm competing in Ironman to achieve a goal I set for myself years ago and also to encourage the 40 million people in the United States who suffer some form of paralysis to never give up on life. Things do change from day to day. If you keep working to achieve small victories, maybe tomorrow the big victory will come. Always be ready for tomorrow."
 Rummerfield may attract more attention than most Gatorade Ironman contestants, but nearly everyone who enters Kailua Bay for the start of the race shares his determination.
 "Ironman competitors carry an overachieving streak some might consider obsessive," says Bob Babbitt, publisher of the California triathlete magazine Competitor. Babbitt, himself a six-time Kona Ironman finisher, adds, "Ironman is Mt. Everest and we're going to climb it regardless of the obstacles. We are talking about people who start their day at 5 a.m. with a 50-mile bike, go to work for 10 hours, head to a masters swim practice, and cap the day off with a 10-mile midnight run. The commitment Iron People have to physical fitness is almost incomprehensible to the average person. It's a total lifestyle."
 It's a lifestyle shared by people such as Kathy Hughes, of Marshall, Mich., a 31-year-old aerobics instructor and mother of five young children. Hughes and her husband Paul support their large family by operating an 80-acre cattle farm. "A lot of my training has to be creative," she says. "I do hill training while moving cows from field to field and speed work in the road in front of the house so I can keep an eye on the kids playing in the yard."
 It's a lifestyle once as foreign to Los Angeles' Jeff Greenman as a size 32 waist. As recently as 1985, Greenman, 30, starred in B-movie comedies such as "Screwball Hotel" and "Spring Fever USA" as a 350 pound ton-of-fun. "In 1989 I was watching the Ironman on television, lying in bed eating pizza and chocolate chip cookies. I looked up and said to my friends, 'I want to do that.' They laughed," Greenman recalls. In less than 10 months, he lost 180 pounds. Saturday, Oct. 10, 1992, the 175- pound triathlete will compete in Kona.
 The Ironman lifestyle is one Jim Ward of St. Petersburg, Fla., embraces as a fountain of youth. Ward, 75, became the oldest finisher of the Gatorade Ironman last year when he finished the race in 16 hours, 10 minutes and 15 seconds, second in his age group. Currently featured in a heavily-aired Armor All commercial, Ward looks and feels decades younger than his age. He's not alone either. Nearly 20 triathletes 70 or older will compete in the 1992 Gatorade Ironman.
 On race morning, they'll gather among the 1,400-or-so triathletes at a tiny Kailua-Kona beach for what many think is the most dramatic race start in sports: It begins with conch-shell horns and a cannon blast. Almost inexplicably, a bay that just seconds before was idyllically blue will churn into a sea of white water reminiscent of the Colorado River. Somewhere in that turbulent sea will be Pat Rummerfield, a man who has some experience with inexplicable change.
 "When I was first in rehabilitation and my body just didn't seem to respond, I used to tell myself, 'Don't get upset you're lucky to have come this far. Tomorrow I'll get a little closer to my goal,"' Rummerfield reflects. "For 18 years I have told myself to always be ready for tomorrow. On Oct. 10, I am going to get up and say to myself, 'Tomorrow I'll be an Ironman finisher.'"
 -0- 9/29/92
 /CONTACT: Rob Perry, 808-329-0063, or Marlene Petter, 312-222-8593, for Gatorade Ironman Triathlon/ CO: Gatorade ST: Hawaii IN: SU:

TM -- NY074 -- 4519 09/29/92 16:16 EDT
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Date:Sep 29, 1992

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