Given Robert Vigorito's endurance as a six-time finisher of the world-famous Ironman Triathlon event in Hawaii, many figured that his tenure with the Columbia Triathlon Association would go on forever.
Those who did might be surprised to hear that Vigorito — or simply "Vigo," as he is called by many — is retiring from the organization he helped create.
Vigorito, who will turn 65 in March, announced Friday that he was ending his 26-year run as CEO and race director of what is one of the area's oldest and most prestigious endurance events. He will continue to work with the U.S. Triathlon Association and other organizations.
"Along with some of my friends, I had this dream [to hold a triathlon]. I just dared to dream a little bigger," Vigorito said in a telephone interview. "I nurtured it, developed it, it all came to fruition. It's been very cool."
Vigorito, who renamed his organization TriColumbia "about four years ago" said that his own life-altering event two years ago influenced his decision to move on to his next challenge.
In October 2010, Vigorito was badly injured while in Hawaii for the Triathlon World Championships. Vigorito, who was not competing at the time, was hit by a truck while on a training bike ride and sustained nine broken ribs, a fractured scapula, a collapsed lung and lacerations.
"When I was lying there on the Queen K Highway and I was having trouble breathing, I realized I wasn't infallible, that I could actually die," Vigorito recalled Friday. "I started to think, 'Lord, if you let me survive, you have other things in store for me'."
A friendship with Jonathan Blais, who became the first person diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to compete in a triathlon, also played in Vigorito's decision. ALS is a debillitating motor neuron disease also known Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Trained professionally as a physician's assistant whose speciality was pathology, Vigorito plans to work extensively with the Blazeman Foundation in its "War on ALS." Vigorito taught and conducted brain and tissue research for three decades at the University of Maryland Medical School.
Vigorito said that a friendship with a Northern Virginia triathlete suffering from brain cancer as well two chance encounters this year with two young girls whose lives had been touched by the disease also impacted his decision.
"This year caused me to think about and contemplate my life," Vigorito said. "I realized that I still have a lot to give, but in a different manner. Who gets to retire twice from two different careers after 30 years?"
Rudy Gil, chairman of TriColumbia's Board of Directors, said in statement Friday, "Vigo is a legend in the multisport world, and we are very happy for him as he enters into yet another phase of his life. A presence like Robert Vigorito cannot be replaced, but we look forward to continuing the history and growth of TriColumbia in the years ahead."
Vigorito will be honored by TriColumbia on May 19, prior to the 30th running of the Columbia Triathlon.