The first weekend of September, the Melvin Food aquatic center pool will be filled with hundreds of folks who are swimming in Trifest for MS and that’s just one part of the big event. There will be one man, Randall Mertes, who will be encouraging people as they take that first dive, but what many don’t know is that Mertes has a story of his own.
“You’re started every ten seconds, and you’re in a pool and you can see the bottom and there’s a stripe you can follow and there’s a lane line that you can grab a hold of,” said Mertes.
When Randall Mertes talks about swimming hundreds of meters, he makes it sound, well, easy.
“When you send them off, they’re all business and they just put their head down and swim,” said Mertes.
When you’re as tough as Mertes, it probably is.
“When I was 25, I had Osteosarcoma. I had to complete nine months of chemotherapy and they did lymph salvage surgery. In February of 2015, I was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and in April, had a complete Whipple done to my pancreas, spleen and gallbladder. In January 2016, I went to the hospital and they told me I had had a heart attack,” said Mertes.
Even last year while undergoing cancer treatment, Mertes, still standing poolside.
“It gave me empathy for these people that get in and are very scared of the water and its given me a whole new appreciation for life. Two, for the people that come out here and do these sort of events and feel that they’re stretching beyond their capabilities but yet when it’s all said and done they conquer it and it just makes it all the more special,” said Mertes.
And through it all, his goal to find a cure for MS hasn’t dwindled. His passion comes from watching friends, like the race’s name sake, Jo Rampy, battle this disease. He is encouraged by the work done through tri-fest.
“It really inspires and motivates me more to get out there and try and bring people into this cause,” said Mertes.
“To see the doctors and talk to them and when we did the check presentation its just fills your heart with joy and it makes you feel as though you are making a difference and you are impacting peoples lives,” said Mertes.
To join in on Trifest for MS, click here.