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“When we don’t have that natural drive inside of us to do it, then it becomes important to be connected with something that provides that drive,” said Fagerness, who competes in triathlons himself.
Monahan said that when he began coordinating the Blaine event, Fagerness approached him looking to help participants get ready.
Bunelle, who said she was tired of doctors and physical therapists telling her what she couldn’t do, said she found inspiration from Fagerness. He has helped her train to the point that she can swim a mile and a half without using her legs.
“I wouldn’t be here without Jon,” she said.
Maggie Tatton said she has been training with Fagerness since he opened his gym about four years ago. Bill Bunnelle, Sarah’s husband, said Fagerness creates a fierce, competitive atmosphere in the gym that pushes his clients past where they think they can go.
Bill Bunnelle, who turned 60 this year, used to run marathons and other races often. He hasn’t done a triathlon in nearly 30 years, he said. This year, the Blaine Triathlon marks a return for him. “I’m really looking forward it,” he said.
Kevin Burbach is a University of Minnesota journalism student on assignment to the Star Tribune.