Paul Birkeli reached the finish, but he wasn’t done.
He had to get his bike and his wife’s bike from the transition area. He also needed his phone to take a picture.
But there was more than enough time.
When his wife, who just had a baby in April, completed her intermedix Ironman 70.3 Augusta run Sunday, Birkeli had to be there. Not just waiting for her at the end, but right alongside her.
So when Monique Birkeli completed her race with a time of 6:22:59, Paul ran it with her. They jogged down the lane hand-in-hand and shared a few kisses moments after concluding the event together.
“I am ecstatic I finished this,” Monique said. “And I finished in a shocking time for me. So I’m really proud. My goal was under seven hours. I really thought I would have to walk – and I didn’t have to walk at all. I was blown away by that.”
The couple, who live in Peachtree City, Ga., and have been married for about 9½ years, have been running marathons and triathlons for years. They even ran a marathon together soon after they got engaged.
Paul, who has run a marathon in more than a dozen states, clocked in Sunday with a time of 5:29:04 in the male 40-44 category.
“For me, it’s just going in with the mindset that it’s going to take a long time,” he said. “Just pace yourself and enjoy it. I’m not going to win, but we have our personal best that we shoot for every time. If it’s a good day, we’ll hit it. If it’s not so good, if we finish, it’s still a good day.”
Monique, competing in the female 30-34 category, was thrilled just to be in her first Half-Ironman so soon after a C-section. Daughter Harper was born April 2, Monique’s third child after Jackson, 6, and Hayes, 5. She didn’t train during her pregnancy, but when she and her husband signed up for the Augusta event, Monique was determined to follow through. Instead of date nights at the movies or dinner, the couple got sitters so they could go on long-distance rides and runs.
All that work led to Sunday, when Paul ran more than three extra miles so he could be with his wife as she reached the end.
Before that, and after Paul finished his run, he went back to the transition area to get both bikes and backpacks. He didn’t want Monique to walk all the way there afterward.
With two bikes and backpacks, he was easily spotted by spectators.
“ ‘You get brownie points! You get brownie points!’ ” Paul recalled people telling him as he hustled back to the car. “People are like, ‘Man, your wife must love you.’ ”
“Or you must love your wife,” Monique said with a smile.