The Ironman is an event of epic (and some would say horrific) lore. Athletes and non-athletes alike have heard the stories of competitors being swallowed by waves during the swim stage, staggering across the finish line with only one working limb or losing control of their bodily functions. Yet our Wharton Alumni Board Chairman, Rob Newbold, WG’99, braved his first Ironman in Florida on Nov. 3 and emerged unscathed, indeed as the “Ironman Foundation Featured Athlete” of the event.

The honor was not based on Newbold’s ability to finish the race under 13 hours (impressive nonetheless), but on his ability to raise funds for his charity of choice, Autism Speaks. He raised $35,000 so far, more than double the amount raised by any other Ironman athlete participating in the Ironman Foundation’s program, through the first two races of the season. Newbold is inspired by his son, who is on the autistic spectrum.

“I have been completely blown away by the amazing support of my friends and fellow Wharton alumni in this fundraising effort. Being able to give back to Autism Speaks in my son’s honor has made completing the Ironman so much more rewarding,” he says.

Rob Newbold, WG’99, and son

Newbold does not have quit in him. He hopes to raise at least another $15,000 by the December3 deadline. (To help out, donate by following the link to Newbold’s Autism Speaks-Ironman Foundation page.)

An added bonus for Newbold: If he is one of the top Ironman fundraisers for the year, he could earn a spot racing with the pros at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

He will need to train even harder for his second attempt at the Ironman’s triathlon: 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running, all back to back. Until just a couple of years ago, Newbold did not swim, bike or run at all, but a friend convinced him to try a “sprint” triathlon. He was hooked, and has since completed marathons, Olympic-distance triathlons, a couple half Ironmans and now his first full Ironman.

His official time in Florida was 12:58:58. And he admitted that he “had to really dig deep on the last six miles of the run to make it under 13 hours.”

Autism Speaks is the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

Editor’s note: View below the video that Ironman created about Newbold as their Featured Athlete: