Mauro completes individual Ironman challenge

VP of Strategies and Campus Operations tests physical strength by competing against himself



Steve Mauro, right, stands next to his son before completing his individual Ironman challenge. Mauro was set to compete in the 2020 Ironman at Lake Placid before the event was postponed and subsequently canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chloe Forbes, Editor-in-Chief

Every Monday and Wednesday morning, freshmen file into Palumbo 2237 to their class with Steven Mauro, Ph.D., Gannon University’s vice president of strategies and campus operations. The topic is setting goals and Mauro asks his students, “What does your life resume look like? What are the things that you want to achieve in life that you might not put on a resume, but things you’d want to put on and say, ‘Look what I did in life and how fun was that?’”

For Mauro, that thing is completing an Ironman-distance triathlon, something he finished Sept. 4.

Mauro finished a “half-Ironman” in 2019 but set his sights on the 2020 Ironman Lake Placid. The event, scheduled for July, was further postponed until September due to COVID-19, then cut altogether. That was when Mauro decided to make a course of his own, swimming 2.4 miles at the Glenwood YMCA, biking 112 miles around Presque Isle and running back to his house and doing laps for a total 26.22-mile marathon.

Mauro became interested in marathons and challenges after experiencing the health and wellness initiatives at Gannon, leading up to his first experience, running a 50-mile ultramarathon. From there, he only wanted to go bigger.

“It was just a lot of hard work and consistency,” Mauro said. “I started two years ago, and the crazy thing is that two years ago, when I first swam… I didn’t know how to swim really long and far, so I got in the pool and I swear I made it two laps and I was like ‘Oh, well that’s all I can do’ so I wasn’t anywhere near 2.4 miles, which is the swimming part of it.

“I really had to learn. I had to learn how to breathe and pace myself and know what my right speed was, and it took a lot of practice. It really was an event that was two years in the making.”

In the months leading up to the event, Mauro increased the increments in which he practiced. He entered some shorter-distance events and increased his workout times from six hours to seven hours, then up to 11 hour-workouts to reach his goals each month.

A big difference was the lack of having a crowd at the event as opposed to the regular onlookers, cheering on racers in addition to the other participants providing comradery.

Mauro commented that it wasn’t always that people were talking to each other, but there was always an electric energy that kept everyone going. During his personal race, however, he did have some guests along the way. Keith Taylor, Ph.D., president of the university, rode the last 90 miles on the bike trial next to him, followed by Valerie Bacik, the vice president of planning and finance, who ran part of the marathon beside him.

“I can tell you, I was feeling really tired at the end of the bike, and that’s when Dr. Taylor rode that last 90 miles with me, and he was motivating me because I was starting to get a little tired,” Mauro said. “Then, right after that was when my other colleague, Val, started to run, so it was really nice to have her there.

“It would have been really hard to start that run after I was already tired getting off the bikes. So, you get off the bike after doing 112 miles and then you have to think ‘OK, now I have to do a whole marathon,’ so when you’re already feeling pain, it is really sobering to think about that,” Mauro added with a smile and a light laugh.

Bacik said she has weekly meetings with Mauro where instead of sitting down together, they go on runs, so when she had the opportunity to join Mauro in his Ironman, she gladly joined for about six miles of the run.

“Completing an ironman is a big deal,” Bacik said. “Dr. Mauro is my teammate and I was happy to provide some support in achieving his goal.

“I think it’s great that Dr. Mauro created his own event.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to set a goal of completing an endurance event, training for months, and then having the event canceled.  Dr. Mauro didn’t let the cancellation stop him from achieving his goal of completing an ironman.”

Starting at 9 a.m. that Saturday and ending 16 hours and about 53 minutes later, at 1 a.m. the following day, Mauro recalls the first thought that popped into his mind being that he just wanted to sleep, and that’s exactly what he did, passed out on his living room floor.

When he thinks of his life resume, Mauro said he hopes this proves to be provoking to his students especially.

“I hope it is inspirational and motivational to them,” Mauro said. “This was one of those things for me and I get to put on my life resume now that I completed an Ironman, and I hope even in the midst of a pandemic that people are still thinking about what they want to do in this world and just know if they work hard at it and take one step at a time, they can do it.”


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