Saturday 7 September 2013

History of Ironman

So, introduction to my Blog over, now to hopefully explain a little about the creation of Ironman .......

History of Ironman:

It was on the West Coast of the USA during the mid 70's that multi-discipline sports endurance first kicked off with locally organised short-distance triathlons and single discipline endurance events. Keen athletes would naturally seek out fresh new challenges.

The idea for the original Ironman Triathlon arose during the awards ceremony for the 1977 O Ľahu Perimeter Relay (a running race for 5-person teams). Among the participants were numerous representatives of both the Mid-Pacific Road Runners and the Waikiki Swim Club, whose members had long been debating which athletes were more fit, runners or swimmers. On this occasion, U.S. Navy Commander John Collins pointed out that a recent article in Sports Illustrated magazine had declared that Eddy Merckx, the great Belgian cyclist, had the highest recorded "oxygen uptake" of any athlete ever measured, so perhaps cyclists were more fit than anyone. CDR Collins and his wife Judy Collins had taken part in the triathlons staged in 1974 and 1975 by the San Diego Track Club in and around Mission Bay, California, as well as the 1975 Optimist Sports Fiesta Triathlon in Coronado, California. A number of the other military athletes in attendance were also familiar with the San Diego races, so they understood the concept when Collins suggested that the debate should be settled through a race combining the three existing long-distance competitions already on the island: the Waikiki Roughwater Swim (2.4 mi./3.86 km), the Around-Oahu Bike Race (115 mi./185.07 km; originally a two-day event) and the Honolulu Marathon (26.219 mi./42.195 km).

From this initial discussion, John Collins and his wife organised the first event, held in Feb 1978.

Until that point, no one present had ever done the bike race. Collins calculated that by shaving 3 miles (4.8 km) off the course and riding counter-clockwise around the island, the bike leg could start at the finish of the Waikiki Rough Water and end at the Aloha Tower, the traditional start of the Honolulu Marathon. Prior to racing, 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", now a registered trademark.

With a nod to a local runner who was notorious for his demanding workouts, Collins said, "Whoever finishes first, we'll call him the Iron Man."

The first years event attracted only 15 entrants by word-of-mouth alone. Of the 15, only 12 were to finish on the day. Year two brought 50 entrants, but due to poor weather on the day, only 15 started.
By chance, there was a reporter from the US based Sports Illustrated magazine in the Island covering a local Golf tournament that had been hit by the weather. He was instructed to cover this low-key event for the next month edition. The reported became engrossed with the magnitude of the endeavours of the athletes and filed a 10-page report, the publishing of which drew hundreds of enquired to Collins for the next year.

The event grew over the couple of years and the organisational responsibilities passed to Valerie Silk. It was she who moved the event to the less urbanised Hawaii Island and the now iconic location of Kona. In 1982, she also moved the staging of the event from Feb to October (hence record books show two sets of results for 1982).

Since the early days, the event has become so popular that strict entry criteria for these 'World Championships' in Kona have been introduced and the world series of M-dot events have been used as 'qualifiers'.

Now, the M-dot is now a trade-mark much as F1 or McDonalds is nowadays (someone holds the rights to the mark and typically wishes to reap the rewards of the marketing) so other Long Distance triathlons such as OUTLAW cannot call themselves 'Ironman', but in my opinion, if we are being picky about calling a Long Distance triathlete finisher 'Ironman', then it should be pointed out that it was only the single winner of the yearly Hawaii event that could be held as 'Ironman' by his peers. A discussion point for some I suppose!

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