When Patrick Lange won the Ironman World Championship last month, setting a course record in the process, he found enough energy for one final special moment.
Before falling to the ground from exhaustion, the German proposed to his girlfriend Julia at the finish line.
It was the perfect ending to a special day for Lange, who became the first athlete in history to go under eight hours on the 140.6-mile Hawaiian course.
In doing so, the 32-year-old defended his crown in a time of seven hours, 52 minutes, 39 seconds.
“I achieved the biggest goal in my life for the second time and then to be engaged with the love of my life, it just blew my mind. I cannot think of a better situation or a better day,” he told CNN’s Patrick Snell.
The Ironman World Championship has been held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, every year since 1978. It serves as an idyllic location for one of sport’s toughest events.
Athletes begin with a 2.4-mile swim around the harbor before setting off on a 112-mile bike ride. After swapping two wheels for a pair of running shoes, participants finish with a marathon — 26.2 miles.
‘Hardest race ever’
Despite his record-setting time, Lange didn’t even have the best start. He was way behind after the swim but made up ground on the bike ride, a feat he credits to calm weather conditions.
A lack of wind made for grueling conditions in the marathon.
“It was probably the hardest race I ever did,” Lange said. “The marathon run was really hard because we had no winds. It was almost 120 degrees Fahrenheit over the asphalt [roads].”
Lange credits his ability to push through the pain-barrier to a tough mental attitude and stays positive by being grateful for the opportunity to race in such an elite setting.
“It’s incredible how far your mind can take you,” he said. “You really go through some dark places in the race and it’s really important to get out of that dark place and stay in the moment.”
The German had kept his proposal plans a secret and used it as motivation during the months of preparation for Hawaii.
The thought of it drove him on during the final run.
“I mean, to be completely honest, when I met Julia it took me five seconds to figure out that she will be the love of my life,” he said.
“I saved that tiny little extra energy to do the proposal.
“After I did it, and she said yes, all the pressure of months of training, all the exhausting racing, it just fell off at that moment.”
Lange trains up to 40 hours every week but explains that his vegetarian diet is just as important.
“I train so much that I also have to eat properly, to not lose weight and not lose muscle mass,” he said.
“I eat a lot of pasta and make sure that I get enough carbohydrates into my system.”
His now fiancee certainly helps when it comes to mapping out his preparation. As well as a constant source of inspiration, Julia is also an industry-leading health expert.
Fortunately for Lange, she doesn’t believe in sacrificing too much.
“You stick to your own diet and just need whatever you feel fuels your body properly. So if it’s pizza, go for the pizza. That’s it.”
It could have been very different for both Patrick and Julia.
The German nearly quit the sport five years ago when he found himself without a sponsor.
“I’m just really proud that I trusted myself and that I found people that really believed that I could achieve my goals,” the two-time champion said.
In tribute to Lange’s phoenix rise, both he and Julia created #betherecordbreaker.
The social media campaign hopes to encourage others to achieve their potential.
“The idea behind that hashtag was not so much about Patrick himself but about the fact that if people just stick to their own dreams and follow them, they’re able to achieve their goals,” Julia explained.