Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | March 15, 2011

Swimming, Running and Biking to a Better Life

This piece was featured in Volume 2, Issue 3 of Ball Bearings, Ball State University’s campus magazine.  Visit the story at the following link, or read it below.  Let me know what you think! Enjoy!

The sun has yet to rise on Ball State’s campus, but for Ryan Morris the day is already well underway. Approaching the Student Wellness and Recreation Center (SWRC) doors, armed with sweats and a water bottle, he prepares himself for the long workout that lies ahead.

While turning on the treadmill, he fills his ears with the sounds of Boston, his favorite rock band. Everything is ready now. It is time to train, time to sweat and time to feel some pain.

Morris, a 21-year-old senior marketing major, is a regular at the SWRC. For someone who has completed more than 35 triathlons in the past three years, this is a part of life. However, a 5:30 a.m. wake up call is unheard of for most students Morris’ age.

But life has not always been this way for Morris. Growing up, he was not really into sports.

“He liked to watch [sports], but at the time he didn’t have much interest,” his father, Rick Morris, says.

Morris attended a private Catholic school until the seventh grade, when he transferred to Muncie’s Northside Middle School. The new public school environment presented Morris with some social challenges.

“I didn’t know anybody, so I didn’t catch on to the whole sport thing,” he says.

By the time he entered high school, Morris started to gain weight; and aside from playing golf, he did not get much exercise. Standing six feet tall and tipping the scales at 250 pounds, Morris’ junior year at Muncie Central High School marked the heaviest he had ever been.

Eventually, Morris says he got fed up with how much weight he had gained. Something had to change, and it did so in college. “I woke up one morning my freshman year and decided to work out, and I have nearly everyday since. I kept that promise to myself,” he states proudly, and with good reason: he lost 20 pounds during his freshman year at Purdue University. Today, he weighs in at 180 pounds, 70 pounds less than his junior year of high school.

The desire to be fit and healthy drove Morris to lose the weight.

“I knew that I had to change something. I told myself that I couldn’t keep living the way I was because it would only get worse,” he recalls. “I knew that [losing weight] would improve all aspects of my life, not just physically, but emotionally and socially.”

Morris says losing and keeping the weight off will always be one of his greatest accomplishments in life.

The Triathlon Bug

Rick introduced his son to the sport of triathlon at the age of nine, but Morris didn’t pick it up until after his freshman year of college.

“I found my dad’s old bike and started riding it. One thing lead to another, and I started running and swimming, and then I signed up for my first race,” he says. “Once I did that, I got bit by the triathlon bug. It’s addicting.”

Morris on the bike leg of a triathlon.

This newfound passion for triathlons added fuel to his weight loss goals. On June 21, 2008, two months after Morris started training, he competed in the Indianapolis Sprint Triathlon.

“Crossing the finish line was one of the best feelings I ever had,” Morris says.

Today, his preferred race is the Half Ironman, which consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run.

But Morris has faced many setbacks that could have kept him from reaching his goals. Last May, he was in fifth place at an Olympic Race in Fort Wayne, Ind. when he fractured his fifth metatarsal, the long bone located on the outside of the foot, on mile two of the run.

“That set back the years to come,” Morris recalls.

In addition to battling injuries, he also combats several daily struggles in his pursuit for excellence.

“The biggest challenge is time management,” Morris says. “You have to balance your regular life and training.”

Early morning workouts can be a pain, he says; so it takes sacrifice and determination to be competitive.

“Nothing gets in [Morris’] way. When he sets his mind to something, he [finishes] strong,” Nick Vollmar, a senior political science major who has known Morris since the eighth grade, says.

Giving Back

The sport of triathlon changed Morris’ life.

“Triathlon has become a lifestyle. My life revolves around it,” he says. “It helps keep me fit, and it helps me with other aspects of my life, including school and time management.”

In order to give back to the sport that gave him so much, Morris got involved. Two years ago, he became the founder and president of the Ball State Triathlon Club to spread awareness of the sport.

“Many people don’t know that Muncie hosts the oldest running Half Ironman in the world,” he says.

In fact, Muncie is one of the biggest triathlon regions in the Midwest. In a typical triathlon year, the city hosts seven races between May and October. Morris also volunteers for Muncie Multi-Sport, a local company that hosts health and wellness events.

Despite his latest foot injury, Morris hopes to place in a sprint race this year. Eventually, he wants to complete a Half Ironman in less than 4.5 hours to qualify for the Half Ironman World Championships. His ultimate goal is to place in the top three at the full Ironman distance.

Lauren Hardy
Ball Bearings Contributor


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