Endurance athlete, firefighter encourages people to "run into the fire"

Published: Jan. 9, 2018 at 4:57 PM CST
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Rob Verhelst is trying to fire up runners and non-runners to take on the challenge of a marathon.

"I love endurance athletes. I think endurance athletes are the epitome of what's great about our society, because they're constantly going for something greater," says Verhelst.

He's known as Fireman Rob, an endurance athlete, firefighter and rescue worker at Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Now he's using those experiences to motivate people to "run into the fire" and try something new, like participating in the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon in May.

Runners and non-athletes will probably listen to him, too, if for nothing more than his decorated resume.

"I've completed 21 full IRONMANS, 28 half-IRONMANS, over eight marathons and half-marathons in full firefighter gear," says Verhelst.

The Air Force veterans has been a firefighter in Madison for 18 years.

He went to New York two days after the Twin Towers fell in 2001, to help with search and rescue efforts.

All those experiences drive and push him as he travels around the world, pushing others to run into the fire.

"You consider the fires are the challenges, the obstacles in your life, and if you never run into those obstacles or those challenges, you're never going to really find what your true potential is," he says.

He's challenging people to reach for that goal as the keynote speaker at Wednesday night's Cellcom Green Bay Marathon kickoff party.

His finish of the Cellcom race in 2015 is one of his most memorable.

That year, he partnered with the non-profit organization my Team Triumph, pushing Jacob all but the last few feet of the 26.2 mile course.

Fireman Rob, in full turnout gear, along with police officers who also ran in uniform, helped Jacob across the finish line on his own feet.

"Finding that mental strength to be able to push through anything," he says. "It's not just the race. You can't see that finish line as just your finish line. This is an accomplishment. It's a journey that's going to lead you to greater things. Come motivated, not just to race on race day, but to train and change your life via the race," he says.

The kickoff party is Wednesday night at the Titletown Tap Room, 320 N. Broadway Street, in Green Bay. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. Fireman Rob begins speaking at 7:00 p.m.

The Cellcom Green Bay Marathon weekend is slated for May 18th-20th. For more information about the race, click on the links to the right or below.