Tenacious. Passionate. Resilient. Nobody epitomizes the essence of the Driven Lifestyle better than Kurt Madden.
An endurance sport icon and Mdrive ambassador, Kurt is one of the OGs of the sport. He finished seventh at the 1980 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii — his first Ironman triathlon competition and the third Ironman ever — and won the first-ever Ultraman race in 1983, repeating that feat two years later in 1985.
The legendary Ironman competition consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run, for a total of 140.6 miles straight. An Ultraman is even more intense and grueling, stretching 320 miles of multi-sport racing over three days.
Nearly 40 years later, Kurt continues to compete at the highest level — ranking as one of the world’s top endurance athletes. In 2019, he was inducted into the Ultraman Hall of Fame. And, at age 64, finished eighth overall.
Kurt’s lifelong determination, humility and sheer force of will still drive him today — and are only a few of the many reasons he is our latest Driven Spotlight.
Following his early achievements with triathlon and endurance sports, Kurt decided to, as he put it, “get serious and be a better husband and father.” In 1986, he transitioned into education, climbing the ranks from science teacher to principal and eventually superintendent.
But the passion and desire for triathlon and endurance sports could not be sated. He returned to competition in 2013, when at 58, he competed in Ultraman and was the oldest finisher — and seventh overall for the event.
For Kurt to accomplish such an incredible feat is a testament to his drive and resiliency in the face of extreme adversity.
“After that I got back into racing at a higher level,” he says. Since then, he’s been ranked No. 1 in the world for his age group four times.
Not only is he one of the best in his age group, but Kurt remains one of the best in the world — period.
First introduced to Mdrive in 2013, Kurt says the adaptogen-rich supplements now play a critical role in his daily regimen.
His go-to supplements are Start, Elite and Joint. Because Mdrive Start is calibrated for the morning, he begins his days with two scoops as part of his morning smoothie.
“The formula is top-notch and gives me the protein and recovery support to make it through my day,” he says.
And Kurt’s days can be intense. In addition to the normal challenges of work, family and life, he spends upwards of 20 hours a week training. Not only does that include swimming, biking and running, but also yoga, massage therapy and acupuncture.
“Mdrive has given me a leg up,” he says. “Because of Mdrive, I’m in a class of my own.”
It’s an understatement to call Kurt a driven individual. He has spent his life striving for continuous improvement day after day. But where does such determination come from? Is it innate or learned?
“Call it the grit factor or whatever, but I believe I have what I call the completion gene,” Kurt says. “For me, I am going to continue to grind and stick it out until I finish.”
Additionally, Kurt credits his challenging upbringing and home environment for unlocking and honing his grit factor.
Growing up in the inner-city, Kurt’s parents had nine marriages between the two of them. That continuous instability and uncertainty taught him how to adapt.
“Shaped by the chaos of my childhood, I learned how to go from adversity to excellence,” he says. “When you go through so much adversity, you develop an inner confidence, coupled with humility, to push beyond your limits.”
Conversely, for those with little to no chaos or instability in their lives, learning to adapt in the fact of challenges can be a greater struggle.
It may be obvious, but triathlons aren’t for the faint of heart — or mind. To compete — let alone complete — a race such as an Ironman’s 140.6-mile combined distance requires the ability to mentally block out the physical exhaustion to just keep going.
“Certain people are gritty and have the tenacity to hold on longer,” Kurt says. “When their body says, ‘Stop,’ they have the capacity to push past that and grind it out.”
After all his years in the sport — not to mention his pure passion for it — Kurt has developed an ability to self-hypnotize himself in preparation for and during a race.
“I’m essentially entering my flow state at will to where I don’t feel effort or pain,” he says. “I’m in this place where I hear everything that’s going on around me but I’m so in tune with what I’m doing that a 10-hour race can go really quick.”
Kurt openly acknowledges he’s not your average guy. To go from zero to Kurt Madden would be a challenge for even the most driven men. That said, Kurt has advice for guys who struggle with getting back to the gym or staying motivated to pursue their goals.
“The No. 1 thing to do is set the bar really low,” he says. “Do something that will engage you — pickleball, walking. But whatever it is, stretch out the timeline for an extended period to build a good habit.”
Building little habits over time will lead to results. Stretching them out will allow those habits to better take hold, allowing you to steadily build them up and increase the likelihood that they will stick.
“It’s easy to justify not keeping with your habits,” Kurt says. “The hardest part is getting there.”
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