Mark Bolton was filling in a questionnaire during his Essendon playing days when he publicly stated that completing an ironman was something he wanted to achieve outside of football.
Fifteen years on and Bolton is a little over a week from tackling the 3.86km swim, 180km on the bike, and 42.2km run of the Melbourne Ironman. And he’s never been more nervous in his life.
“I had watched the Hawaiian Ironman the night before we had to do the player profile at the club and I think it was on my mind and I said that’s something I wanted to do,” Bolton told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“I am really nervous about it. I rode past Frankston last week and looked out where the swim leg is, and looked back to the city where there’s a marathon to run, I just felt sick.” – Soon-to-be Ironman mark bolton
“With a baby now (11-month-old Margaret) and things getting more and more hectic, I guess I decided it was now or never.
“I am really nervous about it. I rode past Frankston last week and looked out where the swim leg is, and looked back to the city where there’s a marathon to run, I just felt sick.
“It’s a foreign experience for me and I am not sure the training can prepare you for the challenge of it all.
“It’s the total unknown. I did the half-Ironman in Geelong about six weeks ago but this is going to be totally different.
“The run leg is definitely the most terrifying part of it all. With footy we would run 14-15km in a session but the running required for this after the swim and ride, it’s daunting.”
Bolton has dropped a substantial amount of weight, down from 97kg to 86kg, to help him through the gruelling March 22 event.
He has Australian Luke Bell – who boasts a fifth-place finish in the Hawaiian Ironman – guiding him through his preparation.
“Luke’s been fantastic. He’s given me plenty of little tips on nutrition, thoughts on training. He’s answered every question I have had,” Bolton said.
Bolton has squeezed training in around his work at Ladder and busy life as a husband and father.
He said the support of his wife, Alex, was vital in getting him to the starting line.
“I’ve been up at 4.30am most mornings to train. Alex and little Maggie have been great. I couldn’t have done this without them.”
The personal challenge has a broader aim, too. Bolton is the CEO of Ladder, a charity aimed at tackling youth homelessness. He hopes to raise $10,000 for the organisation through donations from the community.
“I thought it was a really good way to raise awareness about Ladder and it’s work but also around the issue of youth homelessness.
“There are 100,000 every night homeless around Australia and half of them are under 25.”