Yale's School of Drama in the fall of '86 and continued to work on his
swimming. He also started riding a bike to class, and by the following spring
he was swimming four miles a day and bicycling 60. He also jumped rope for an
hour a day to simulate the pounding his leg would take during a run. (He had
yet to be fitted for a running prosthesis.) In June '87, MacLaren entered his
first biathlon, a 10K run and a 40K bike race, in Greenwich, Conn. He finished
dead last in the run, which took him one hour and three minutes to complete.
"Policemen on motorcycles were riding right behind me, and workers were
cleaning up the debris," he says. "But the crowd was great. I knew that
this was the right thing for me to do."
completed his first marathon, the '87 New York race, in 4:04. Five months
later, in April '88 in Boston, he ran a 3:27:54 to break the amputee world
marathon record by more than seven minutes. That summer he ran nine Bud Light
(shorter course) triathlons, averaging 2:35 per competition, which put him in
the top 30% of athletes in the 25-29 age group.
the summer of '88 by completing the Canadian Ironman in 12:16:35. Though
athletics were taking up a lot of his time, his acting didn't suffer. He
graduated from the Yale drama school in May 1989 with an impressive r�sum�. He
had performed at Williamstown with Joanne Woodward, Richard Thomas and Jim
Naughton. Now came the League Auditions, in which third-year acting students
from Yale, New York's Juilliard School and New York University perform for top
agents, casting directors and producers. He had 12 requests for interviews; six
are considered a good response.
On several fronts
1989 was a good year. In August, MacLaren married Christine Wolfe, a graduate
of Yale's architecture school, and moved to Darien, Conn. He increased the
number of triathlons he competed in to 16, and his average time fell some 15
minutes, to the 2:20's. He completed the Hawaiian Ironman in October, and three
weeks later did a 2:23:45 in the USTS Nationals at Hilton Head, S.C. Meanwhile,
MacLaren the actor signed with an agent and read for several parts in films and
television that called for "the Kevin Kline type." He has had some
offers but, he says, "nothing that would make me stop competing yet. I have
an understanding agent, but I know I can't put my acting on hold too much
sure how much faster MacLaren can go in the triathlon, primarily because his
current times are confounding enough. "Jim requires about 40 percent more
oxygen than an able-bodied athlete posting the same times," says Lt. Col.
Hudson Berrey, chief of orthopedic surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center
in Washington, D.C., who looked up MacLaren at a triathlon in Wilkes-Barre,
MacLaren was fitted with an advanced running prosthetic device tailored to his
particular needs. He has different prostheses for running, walking and biking;
when he swims he doesn't use one. MacLaren consulted Mike Joyce, a New York
prosthetist who has worked with more than 30 amputee sprinters and marathoners,
on the design of the running device. In MacLaren's first triathlon with his new
leg, in May in Phoenix, he finished just 24 minutes behind Mike Pigg, the
winner, with a time of 2:10:33. MacLaren also shaved seven minutes off his
previous best. "That's a hell of a jump," says Joyce. Indeed so, and
all the more amazing in that MacLaren loses a total of three to six minutes
between the swim and the bike race and between the ride and the run.
About the only
person who isn't especially impressed with MacLaren is MacLaren himself. But
even he admits that the '89 Ironman was a high note in his career.
"You know, we
all have our own dramas in life," MacLaren adds. "Not everyone has to
do a triathlon to push themselves. Maybe your challenge is simply getting along
with your father. Everything is relative. I don't want to sound like I have all
the answers; I just believe that there are no limits on any of us."