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First-time triathlete bets on himself, and a charity is the big winner

By Megan Miller, CNN
  • A 24-year-old securities analyst bet co-workers that he could do a triathlon without training
  • He successfully completed the athletic ordeal 30 minutes under his goal time of 16 hours
  • He raised thousands of dollars for breast-cancer research
  • Breast cancer claimed his mother's life when he was 15

New York (CNN) -- Brian Kuritzky, a 24-year-old securities analyst, has long been a competitive person.

It's what he does now in the aggressive world of securities and financial risk-reward, and it's what he's done throughout his life. After watching his mother battle and succumb to breast cancer when he was a teen, he sustained himself demonstrating a hard work ethic as a college athlete, followed by a brief stint as a professional player in the cutthroat world of European soccer.

Last Saturday, he even out-competed himself. Kuritzky completed his first ultra-distance triathlon -- a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike race, and a 26.2 mile marathon run, back-to-back-to-back -- 30 minutes under the 16-hour time limit he had set for himself.

What makes that even more noteworthy is that he did it without any real training. In fact, it was only three weeks before the event that he decided to have a go at it, after co-workers bet he couldn't complete the race with no training and on short notice.

Taking the competitive aspect up a notch, Kuritzky in advance designated his office-wager winnings would go to charity. Those office bets have mushroomed into what is now $75,000 and growing in payoffs and other matching contributions, with that money heading to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization, formerly known as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

As news of Kuritzky's feat -- and his reason for doing it -- spread, the donations total grew. What started as some $1-per-minute office wagers jumped from $20,000 combined private and matching company donations by Monday to $75,000 once word spread of his race time and success.

It all began when two co-workers laid down a challenge to the former Cornell soccer player: finish an "Ironman" triathlon in 16 hours. For every minute over 16 hours, Kuritzky would pay his colleagues $1 each, out of his own pocket. For every minute under, the payoff was reversed and $1 per colleague would go to his charity.

Around 100 of his co-workers entered into the pool, holding Kuritzky personally responsible to pay if he were to go over his estimated time or drop out of the race entirely. All his winnings were designated in advance to go to the breast-cancer charity that Kuritzky supported to honor the memory of his mother, Janice, who died when he was 15.

"I knew every minute I finished ahead of 16 hours I had 100 people or so who were going to be donating. Every minute wasted felt like a (lost) potential $1,000. If I took my time or took a break it would've been missing opportunities for money for the charity," Kuritzky told CNN.

Aside from some research on nutrition and a few laps in a local swimming pool, Kuritzky had done zero training for the event. With his demanding job as a securities analyst at Goldman Sachs, he had only a few hours a week to dedicate to soccer practices, with extended games on the weekends.

"There are people that spent nine months training that couldn't finish in his time," Fred Summer, president of Summer Sports, the company that sponsored the Great Floridian triathlon in Clermont, Florida, told CNN in a post-race wrap-up.

"I saw him at the awards ceremony the next morning, and he was standing up and smiling when I went over to congratulate him. I was surprised he even finished considering our dropout rates can sometimes be as high as 20 percent when conditions were as tough as they were for this race."

Kuritzky's finishing time was 15 hours and 30 minutes, a full half-hour under his prediction. He was a top-five finisher in his age group at an event that is notorious for its difficulty due to the climate and conditions of the hilly course.

Kuritzky is no stranger to negligible training when completing major events. When a friend dropped out of the ING New York City marathon in 2008, he took her place with less than nine days leading up to the race.

What kept him going then and to this day was keeping alive the memory of his mother, and the Komen charity. As a young professional member, he joined the organization's board after the ING New York City marathon and has worked as a fundraiser ever since.

On his triathlon race blog he wrote, "If I were to stop when my body was telling me to, I wouldn't have finished the first bike lap."

Kuritzky took Monday off from work, stopping by his office only briefly to check his fundraising balance sheet. Once again, he found he had broken another goal. Good news of his race time had traveled fast around the office and people multiplied their original dollar donations to reflect their admiration and support for what he had done. Along with his co-workers' donations, there were companies matching private donations dollar-for-dollar, all of it going to the Susan G. Komen organization.

Kuritzky, aiming to get back on the soccer field soon, looks at his triathlon achievement not for what he did, but for what it has done for his chosen charity.

"For me it was a question of not only about whether it was possible or not," he said, "but a personal challenge that I set for myself and a cause I wanted to do everything that I could possibly do."