“Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!” “Whoever finishes foremost, we’ll call him the Iron Man.”
The Ironman Triathlon World Championship is the initial and ultimate Swim – Bike – Run event.
The race was created for bragging rights by combining the 2.4-mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim, 112-miles of the Around-Oahu Bike Race, followed by the 26.2-mile run of the Honolulu Marathon.
During an awards banquet for the Waikiki Swim Club, Commander John Collins, a Naval Officer stationed in Hawai`i, and his wife Judy, began playing with the idea of combining the three toughest endurance races on the island into one race.
They decided to issue a challenge to see who the toughest athletes were: swimmers, bikers or runners. On February 18, 1978, 15 competitors, including Collins, came to the shores of Waikiki to take on the first-ever Ironman challenge. (Ironman)
Most of the folks who enlisted arrived at the beach start before sunrise. Of the eighteen that originally signed up, three would decide to back out.
The usual excitement pre-race hung in the air. Loud music was blaring from the speakers of a parked van owned by John Dunbar, one of the competitors. He would later change from his Superman costume to his swim gear as the race start time was nearing. (ironmanfacts)
Eleven-hours 46-minutes 58-seconds later, Gordon Haller, a taxi cab driver on most days, a local hero on that day, became the world’s first Ironman Triathlon champion. (NY Times) (Twelve of the initial 15 finished the race.)
What started out essentially as a bar bet on who was the best endurance athlete – swimmer, biker or runner – the Ironman Triathlon World Championship has grown to be the paramount multi-sport race (and now a category of its own.)
It started on Oʻahu; in 1981 Ironman made its home in West Hawaiʻi on the Big Island. (In 1982, there were two races, the first in February (consistent with the timing of prior events) and then another in October (moved to allow racers from colder climates to better train.)
The women’s portion of the February 1982 race was one of Ironman’s memorable milestones. Julie Moss, who entered the race as part of her thesis paper on physiological and training considerations, was in the lead, with about a mile to go.
She collapsed, her legs giving out after nearly 140-miles. What now is indicative of the Ironman spirit, she got up and tried moving forward. After many starts and stops, she made it is less than 10-yards from the finish line, she fell a final time.
As she lay on the Kathleen McCartney passed her and won. Moss dragged herself, crawling across the finish line 29-seconds later, finishing second.
“That race brought so much attention to the sport of Triathlon. … Julie inspired thousands of people that day. It wasn’t about winning anymore. It was about finishing.” (McCartney; NY Times)
Video of Julie Moss’s finish on YouTube:
The 2,000 contestants of this year’s race start with staggered times; at 6:25 am for pro men, 6:30 am for pro women, 6:50 am for age group men and 7:00 am for age group women, Saturday, October 10, 2015.
It ends at midnight (nothing beats watching the late-night finishers of the Ironman.)
For 13-years, I was Ironman Director of Aid Stations (1990-2002.) We had about 4,000 volunteers and over 30 bike and run aid stations for the 1,200 contestants.
To the Ironman contestants: Have fun … see you at the finish line.
“You can quit if you want, and no one will care. But you will know for the rest of your life.” (John Collins, Ironman co-founder; Ironman)