Inspirational Ironman crosses finish line, calls it a career

GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- This past weekend marked a finish line of sorts for Jim Birch. The Traverse City man finished the Traverse City Triathlon, and in the process completed his triathlon career. It's a career that has stretched back 35 years, and included more than 150 races, from small ones close to home to the biggest stages in the sport.

"I qualified a couple of times for Ironman in Kona," explains Jim, "I did the 70.3 Ironman Worlds 4 or 5 times, even got on the podium a couple of times, so I had some good years." When it comes to swimming, cycling and running, Jim calls them good years. Most of us would call them phenomenal ones.

Jim's spent the last four decades racing a clock, but this weekend, he discovered he couldn't outrun Father Time. The 75 year-old has the will, but his legs have decided they've had enough. Jim says "It's become very painful to run, and you don't want to see a grown man cry coming across the finish line." So Jim made the call this past weekend. He's done. He crossed his finish line and hung up his last medal. But that's not really what he says he is going to miss.

Jim says "the people you meet are just phenomenal, I love them to death." Through his racing, Jim has made friends from around the world, but don't something even more amazing right here in Northern Michigan. He's inspired and mentored a generation of endurance athletes to push their own limits and chase their own dreams. You would have a hard time finding someone more humble about what he's accomplished racing, and when you ask about the inspiration he has served for others, he's even more unaware of the impact of what may very well be his greatest accomplishment.

Jim says "I got more out of this than I ever could give to anybody else." But give he does. It's not uncommon to find Jim standing along a course, cheering on runners, or volunteering at water stations. It's just what Jim does. It's just who Jim is.

To learn about Jim and his racing career, please watch the video.

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