A Tradition Continues Former Citizen of the Year Gears Up for Next Triathlon

Don Eggleston

Don Eggleston turns 68 in three weeks. The former school board member (2001-2009), Booster Club President, Tiger Bingo President and 2007 selection for The Review’s Citizen of the Year will spend his birthday the same way he has for nearly three decades: by attempting his own personal triathlon.

On April 13, Eggleston will swim 68 lengths of the pool, walk 6.8 miles and bike 68 miles. He expects the triathlon to take approximately eight hours.

Eggleston began the birthday tradition in 1982, when, for his 40th he swam 40 lengths of the pool, biked 40 miles, and ran 40 times around the South Pas High track. He has since biked across the country from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine and completed a half iron man – a 1.2-mile swim followed by a half marathon – at the age of 60.

Eggleston’s larger goal is to become the oldest man to bike across the United States. The current world record is 83 years old. He plans to attempt the trek for a third time when he turns 75.

Eggleston’s legacy in South Pasadena is perhaps most fittingly preserved by the turf field and synthetic track he was instrumental in bringing to the high school in 2007. The $2.9 million project, which included the renovation of the baseball field, was completed in part with money from Measure M, a $29 million bond Eggleston had helped to pass in 2002. He chaired a project committee to raise the remaining funds – $1.5 million – from grants, organizations and community members.

The renovations put an end to the formation of dangerous pot holes, eliminated the obligation to water the grass, and softened the unforgiving ground that was wearing down athletes’ knees and hips.

“People can run faster, train harder and be in better shape than they can on what we have now,” Eggleston told a local paper at the time.

Who else could better understand the need to protect an athlete’s most invaluable assets?

This year, for the first time, Eggleston will be walking the second leg of the event instead of running. Credit a November reconstructive knee surgery for the restriction. Torn cartilage from a knee injury suffered on the volleyball court at 22 years old finally became too painful to ignore. “I can run away from a car if I really need to,” he joked, “but running frequently would mean another surgery in ten years instead of 20.”

To attempt an April triathlon after a November knee replacement is unprecedented. But Eggleston is an uncommonly driven man. He couldn’t accept the slow pace of physical therapy, so he opted to push the recovery process forward with supplementary work in the gym.

The first time following the surgery he hopped on a treadmill, Eggleston walked two miles. It was difficult, he acknowledged, but the next day he walked five more. And the next day he walked ten.

Last weekend, in preparation for the triathlon, Eggleston biked 165 miles.

“Things that are worth anything,” he said this week, “are not easy.”

In 2014, Eggleston moved from his home on Milan Avenue, where he had lived since 1979, to Sea Mesa, a community in Oceanside.

Eggleston spends his free time painting, attending to his rose garden, and solving Sudoku puzzles.

He has already impacted his new neighborhood for the better. When he moved to Sea Mesa, Eggleston decided to record the names of neighbors he would meet and something he learned about them. 

“Recently,” he recalled, “I looked at my piece of paper and noticed I had written down 190 names.”