North Andover’s Janos Mako may be getting older, but that’s fine with him.
No, the 59-year-old Mako is not getting better but, over the years, he’s gotten smarter. That’s brought him to the perfect fitness activity, at least for him. And, right now, the perfect age.
A former diehard runner and a member of the Merrimack Valley Striders, Mako turned to triathlons with enthusiasm in 2011, for a somewhat familiar reason.
“I had done a couple of triathlons a long time ago but then I took a break when I had kids — it took too long to train,” said Mako. “I was just a runner (in 2011), doing a lot of road races and marathons, but I was getting injured all the time.
“It was everything over the years — sports hernia, hamstring problems, tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, you name it. It seemed like I was getting injured all the time.”
The diversity of biking and swimming with running can be a solution for multiple-injured runners, and Mako embraced triathlons, becoming one of the first members of the newly formed TriFury Triathlon Club. It was a move in the right direction.
“I loved the diversity of it and especially the camaraderie of it,” said Mako, who is a security program manager in Burlington. “We do a lot of training together and everyone helps each other.”
And, while Mako has done well in triathlon competitions, placing in his age group in relative regularity, he’s always been held back a bit by one thing.
“I’m not a very good swimmer,” he admits. “That’s definitely my weakest event.”
And that has led Mako to the perfect competition for him — duathlons, which consists of just running and biking. Usually, there are two run segments sandwiched around a bike segment, a format that works great for him since running remains his strongest event.
Mako showed his mettle in duathlons back in 2014 when he qualified for the ITU Duathlon World Championships and went to Spain for the competition, finishing 36th in his age group (50-54) as a representative of the United States.
This past April, Mako was back at it again, placing eighth in his age group at the U.S. National Duathlon Championships in Greenville, S.C., turning in a 1:08:18 in the draft legal sprint (5K run, 18K bike, 2.85K run) which was good enough to qualify for the 2020 Duathlon Worlds in Netherlands.
“That’s probably the thing I’m proudest of so far,” said Mako. “I thought I did pretty well and I surprised my wife. She’s from Holland and hasn’t been back since 2005 so it was pretty cool to tell her, guess what, we’re going there next year.”
While duathlons may be the perfect fit for Mako, he remains committed to triathlons and trains for them regularly. He finished second in his age group in a recent triathlon in Wareham, competes in several triathlons during the year and did a full Ironman in Maryland in 2015.
Mako swims three times a week, which is the same number of times he runs and bikes.
“I don’t like it (swimming) that much and it takes some mental toughness to do it, especially in the winter (at the YMCA). But it’s a great workout and, after you’re done, you feel like a million dollars,” said Mako.
Anyway, that training can only help him prepare for next year’s Duathlon World competition, during which he hopes to finish in the top 10 in his age group. The fact that it’s in the Netherlands fuels his training as does the fact that he’ll be in a new age group as a 60-year-old.
“I find myself more motivated as I go into a new age group,” he said. “Next year, I should be in a good spot at that age.”
Overall, Mako is feeling as good about his competitive goals as he ever has, and it makes his return to triathlons eight years ago seem like one of the best decisions he’s ever made. And there’s certainly been an added dividend to it.
“I really haven’t gotten injured at all in a long time,” he said.
Although Janos Mako is a triathlete who is strongest in duathlons, running remains his strongsuit. Following are his personal-best times.
5K — 17:38
10K — 35:10
1/2 marathon — 1:23
Marathon — 3:04