By Jim Hague
Danny Beltran is a native of Colombia who arrived in the United States, settling in Kearny several years ago to get an education at Rutgers- Newark.
As any native Colombian, Beltran first grew up playing the sport of soccer. So when he moved to Kearny, he had something to relate to, considering, after all, that Kearny is known readily as “Soccertown, USA.”
Around the same time, Beltran discovered his love for cycling.
“I started cycling and found out that I loved it,” Beltran said.
However, the adoration for biking lasted only a short time. When Beltran was riding his bike in Teaneck, a vehicle struck Beltran, severely injuring him.
“I broke my leg and dislocated my shoulder,” said Beltran, who was 23 years old at the time of the accident. “I also hit my head and ended up in Holy Name Hospital. I decided that was it for me with cycling. I thought it was unsafe.”
Beltran remained off a bicycle for more than 20 years.
Beltran eventually became the worship leader for El Buen Pastor Church in Kearny, while establishing a career as a director of finances for a New York-based advertising firm.
“I try to get balance in my life, with work, with the church, with my family,” said Beltran, who has a wife, Fabricia, and two sons, Daniel, 8, and David, 7.
About three years ago, Beltran took a trip to Bear Mountain State Park in New York.
“I saw a lot of people biking and wanted to do the same,” Beltran said. “But I was completely overweight and out of shape. I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I didn’t know if I could do it.”
But Beltran was determined. Despite his physical condition, he purchased a bike.
“I had to do something,” Beltran said.
Beltran decided to go full tilt, entering in triathlons – you know, the grueling test of endurance that features a lengthy swim, a significant bicycle ride and a rugged run, one right after the other.
“I started out slowly,” Beltran said. “I really thought I was a swimmer. It took me a while to get totally hooked, but it happened.”
Beltran started to regularly train to compete in triathlons. He started to feel better, dropping 45 pounds. He got his family involved with riding bikes together.
“I’m now an advocate for a healthier lifestyle,” Beltran said.
On Saturday, Beltran will take the biggest step in his new obsession. He will enter the Aquadraat Sports United States Ironman Championships that will take place in New York and New Jersey.
The race will begin with a 2.4-mile swim in the Hudson River, followed by a 112-mile bike ride along the cliffs of the Palisades Interstate Parkway and conclude with a 26.2-mile run over the George Washington Bridge, ending at 81st Street in the heart of Manhattan.
This will be the 47-year-old Beltran’s first attempt at an Ironman-style triathlon.
“I’m pretty excited,” Beltran said. “When I first started, I just about quit, but now I feel really good and I’m going to finish this.”
To prepare for the grueling course, Beltran said that he has been biking regularly from Kearny to Bear Mountain State park and back.
“That’s 115 miles,” Beltran says, without even flinching.
He’s also been running regularly throughout the streets of Kearny.
“I’m going to do this,” Beltran said. “I’m going to finish this. It’s quite a challenge, but I like this lifestyle. I never thought I could do it. A year ago, it was impossible for me to think about running 26 miles. But I’ve been doing it little by little at my own pace. I’m not going crazy. I’m doing it under a doctor’s care. I’ve been able to keep a normal life. So far, so good.”
Beltran is not worried about the grueling distances.
“I know I’m going to be able to finish,” Beltran said. “I’ve been spending a lot of time training each week. Some train as much as 25 hours per week. I’ve been doing like 10 hours. I know I’m going to do it.”
Beltran said that he’s been training with another triathlete from New York named Alex Braun.
“He’s a friend of mine and he’s become an inspiration,” Beltran said. “We met through bike riding and he’s like me in that he’s almost lost 75 pounds getting healthy. You make a lot of friends doing races like this.”
Beltran is amazed how far he’s come in just a year.
“I couldn’t even walk three miles last year,” Beltran said. “Now, I’m going to run 26. I did the New Jersey Marathon this year and I finished it. It’s amazing what the mind can do when you put your mind to it.”
Now, nothing will stop the determination of Beltran.
“I’m doing a sprint triathlon in Atlantic City Sept. 15 and I’ve already volunteered to compete in this triathlon next year,” Beltran said. “I’m in it. This is what I do.”