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After stroke, Father Hadrich returns to triathlon — and wins it

In August 2015, Father Ben Hadrich, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas in International Falls, completed a triathlon. Later that day, he had a life-threatening stroke that required an emergency helicopter ride to Duluth and months rehabilitation to regain his ability to speak and write. His doctors assured him the trauma was not related to the race.

Just shy of a year later, Father Hadrich participated in the same race and finished even better — he won it. The Rainy Lake Triathlon, run Aug. 8 this year, involves a quarter-mile swim, 11 miles on a bike and a 5 kilometer run. He finished in just over an hour, and only relay teams finished faster.

Reached by email, Father Hadrich said he was “excited, nervous and blessed to enter this race” and compared the experience to driving again after his first time going into the ditch on a snowy road, and his mother’s advice to face his fears.

“I believe that challenging situations can be tough,” he said. “One way to answer the challenge is to look at it face-to-face and move forward. And yes, I did have permission from my doctors to experience these events as well as the many volunteers, and EMTs to support all of the athletes.”

In fact, his own doctor in International Falls — a parishioner at St. Thomas — also participated in the race, as did some other parishioners.

“I competed well, but I did not want to go crazy,” Father Hadrich said. “My goal was to be safe, smart and finish the race. I was very careful for swimming and was glad when it was done.”

He said he passed the last solo participant ahead of him with a bit over a mile to go and just kept running, knowing he was the leader.

“I was tired, jacked up and thanked God for not only a triathlon but also winning the triathlon. I made sure that I could speak to my parents, drink water and cool my body to make sure my health was well.”

He says his “eerie experience last year” was just part of a “beautiful and blessed day” this year.

Father Hadrich says athletics and exercising can help our health and serve our body for God, and that the Catholic faith can help show society what God can do and how we can use our bodies for a purpose.

— By Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross