In 2005, Dr. Larry Creswell gave his own cardiovascular system a jolt.
"I decided to get up off the couch and be healthy," said Creswell, associate professor of surgery and an adult heart surgeon.
A decade later, he's added triathlete to his titles. He swims, bikes and runs his way through events across the world, from Australia to Africa to Brazil. Later this summer, he'll travel to Istanbul.
Creswell arrived at UMMC in 2003 after completing a residency at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where he served on the Department of Surgery faculty. When he took charge of his health, Creswell said, he knew it would involve exercise.
He didn't necessarily start out aspiring to take on a triathlon, a sporting competition which in its most popular form involves swimming, biking and running, consecutively, over various distances.
"I was a bit of a swimmer growing up, but not after high school," Creswell said. "That would have been my sport, aside from baseball, as a real young kid. So I decided to pick up swimming again, and then I found friends in Jackson who were bicycling. I got a bike and rode it more and more."
Then came the third sport in the triangle.
"I developed friendships with runners," Creswell said. "I thought running was the weirdest thing before that. I never thought of running."
But run he did, all the while building up his endurance and taking part in more competitions.
"There was a day when I couldn't run the first two minutes, or bicycle the first 10 miles" of a triathlon, said Creswell, who is 52. "It happens over time. You work to go farther and farther at a steady pace. It's harder to do one after another in the same day, but that's the challenge.
"One of the most memorable races I've ever run was my first 5K, the Susan G. Komen," he said of the annual race at Trustmark Park in Pearl. "It was the first day I ran three miles in a row. I got to the finish line thinking, 'It was amazing that I got to the finish line.' I marvel every time I see a 5K run and people out there doing it."
Since then, he's taken part in triathlons all across the nation. One of his favorite international events was in South Africa.
"That's an awesome place to visit, and to have fun in the Indian Ocean."
Swimming, Creswell said, is where he most excels.
"I like to go to swimming races as well. Open-water swimming has become very popular. I practice at the pool, but what's more fun is swim races in open water."
He said this summer he will take part in his shortest overall race.
"It will be in Hilton Head, South Carolina. My folks live there. It will be a short ocean swim - 500 yards - then a six-mile bike ride and three-mile run."
That compares to a recent event in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that involved a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and no run.
"The swim was in an inlet from the ocean," he said.
Creswell said he's been fortunate not to have suffered any significant sports injuries. Instead, he's seen his health improve.
"The blood pressure goes down, the resting heart rate goes down, the bad cholesterol goes down and the good cholesterol goes up," he said. "You do have to build muscle, but the more you stay at it, the more you are apt to become leaner.
"I haven't had a bad day," he said of competing. "I could think of a bee sting here, or a cut on my foot as I was wading out into the ocean. That can happen to people.
"When I give out advice, I tell people to be careful and to watch out for their own safety."
The sport has become a big recreational and social outlet for Creswell. "There's a big community of triathlon folks in Jackson," he said. To view Creswell's blog, go to www.athletesheart.org
"I'm a good swimmer and an average bicyclist and a poor runner. But I enjoy it, even though I'm not in the front of the pack."
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