The history of the Ironman triathlon race dates back to 1978 when during the awards ceremony for a Hawaii running race, a debate ensued amongst competitors about who was more fit — swimmers, runners or other athletes. One of the participants, Navy Commander John Collins and his wife Judy, dreamt up a race to settle the argument. They proposed combining three existing races all to be completed in succession: the Waikiki Rough-water Swim (2.4 miles), the Around-Oahu Bike Race (112 miles, originally a two-day event) and the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles). “Whoever finishes first we’ll call the Ironman,” said Collins. Fifteen men participated in the initial event held on February 18; 12 completed the race, led by the first Ironman, Gordon Haller. His winning time: 11 hours, 46 minutes and 58 seconds. The race was designed to be the toughest single day test of will and determination.
Prior to the race, each athlete received three sheets of paper listing a few rules and a course description. Handwritten on the last page was this exhortation: “Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life”.
That quote written by John Collins sums up the reason why people are drawn to this event, they go through extreme physical and mental punishment to be recognised as an Ironman, for the title and for glory. When you think that most athletes will take over 10 hours to complete the event it seems crazy to go through all that suffering for just a moment of glory but it is obviously worth it.
These days the Ironman has grown to 26 events annually across the globe and is a brand that is becoming a well known and a sought after goal. To think that it started as a one off event, to grow to where it is today is mind blowing, but it is proof that there is something about the event that people seek out and feel the need and want to conquer.
The races are commonly broken up into two categories, you have the pros who are there to win, they are amongst some of the greatest and fittest athletes on the planet and the age groupers, which is the majority of competitors. These men and women are there simply there to finish the race and conquer the massive distance. Each one goes through the ups and downs that you experience in endurance sports and are emerged in a battle between mind and body, where you are trading hours of pain and suffering for moments of glory and the title of Ironman.
In 2012 Ironman comes to Melbourne for the first time and the event will be the stage for the Asia Pacific Ironman Championship. I myself will be amongst the 1400 or so competitors battling the distance that is Ironman. For a long time I have had a great interest in endurance sports and in 2009 I got my first taste of the Ironman World Championships in Kona Hawaii. I was there supporting my uncle who at 40 years of age decided he wanted to tackle the challenge that is the Ironman World Championship. Watching him conquer the day and run across the finish line has certainly inspired me to take up the challenge. Most people that hear about Ironman and learn of what’s involved say “that’s crazy, why would you do that”, but when you see the elation and happiness on the face of the people that cross the finish line, then you know exactly why people are doing it. I saw that in Kona in 2009 and I most definitely want that feeling just like so many.
“Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life” – John Collins.
By Matt Code â€“ Brooks Sales Executive