Dan Callahan is not just a triathlete. He is a Franciscan Friar and the pastor of St. Joan of Arc parish in Toronto. Affectionately known as the “Iron Friar,” Father Dan will swim, bike, and run the 140.6-mile Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii this weekend.
The 61-year-old friar has competed in triathlons for 15 years. He spoke with Bill Littlefield for this week’s Only A Game.
“As I tell people, it keeps me on the streets,” he said. “They say, ‘father, you shouldn’t say that,’ and I say, ‘but it’s true!’”
Callahan has raised over $100,000 competing in triathlons over the years, and has tried to use his passion for the sport to impact the lives of the people he serves.
“When I was working at St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation center, that place was right in Saranac Lake about eight miles from Lake Placid,” he said. “One of the aid stations for the runners was always manned by the residents of St. Joe’s and some of the counselors, and of course they would be awestruck by the wonder of all of these triathletes going by them.”
Callahan relates the struggles of athletes to those of people who are fighting addictions.
“I would help them to see, ‘you folks are in a race for survival, a race for life for the rest of your lives, one day at a time,’” he said. “For us, it’s maybe one day per year, perhaps it’s once in a lifetime. They were my heroes—that’s what I can tell you.”
Although Callahan said his training regimen came second to his parish duties, he believes triathlons, and the training they require, make him a better priest.
“The one time when I know I’ll go for a run—I know there will be time—is between the noon mass, which is over at 11, and the 7 p.m. mass,” Callahan said. “So I will always try to get a 20k or 13-mile run, just to stay in shape. The ability to just go and clear my mind and get away for a few hours certainly helps my ministry.”
Callahan said his love of long bike rides comes in handy while training for an Ironman.
“I just have this mentality,” he said. “When I got into biking, I wanted to go for a long ride. So 50 miles is a short ride for me.”