The Iron­man’s Iron­man

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Feature Triathlete Of The Year Awards -

Count­ingthem up seems to stretch the bound­aries of pos­si­bil­ity. Kona: 163. Florida: 164. Ari­zona: 165. Cozumel: 166.

When John Wragg fin­ished Iron­man Cozumel last De­cem­ber, his 166th full dis­tance race, he had cov­ered 23,339.6 miles ( 37,530 km) dur­ing his in­cred­i­ble Iron­man ca­reer. That’s just the rac­ing. Can you imag­ine how many miles Wragg has cov­ered in train­ing for all of th­ese events?

Wragg dis­cov­ered triathlon in 1986 when he joined a Toronto- based train­ing group. He did his first Iron­man in Auck­land, New Zealand in 1988. That sum­mer, he made a bet with a train­ing buddy that he’d do all five Iron­mans of­fered in the world that year: New Zealand, Canada, Hawaii, Ger­many and Ja­pan. By the time he reached Hawaii for the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship, he was com­pletely “blown out. In hor­ri­ble shape,” he re­mem­bers. “I have a lot of per­sonal worsts … and that first trip to Hawaii in ’ 88 is def­i­nitely one of them.”

Five km from the fin­ish line, Wragg was push­ing 15 hours. The med­i­cal truck hov­ered next to him. He

re­mem­bers see­ing a pair of Oak­ley sun­glasses on the ground and want­ing to pick them up, but think­ing that if he bent over at that mo­ment, he’d fall down and stay down. “It was just a mat­ter of putting one foot in front of the other,” he says.

Sto­ries like this one, trips to the very reaches of his lim­its, along with mile­stones and per­sonal bests, are what make the sport so ex­cit­ing, Wragg says. They’re what have kept him com­ing back for more. He re­mem­bers one of his def­i­nite high points. In Ger­many in 1993, he broke 10 hours: “I ran 9:56. It felt so good to do that.”

The all-time high­light, though, came in Hawaii last Oc­to­ber. De­ter­mined to race along­side his wife, El­iz­a­beth Model, Wragg bid on a spot for Kona through the char­i­ta­ble eBay auc­tion af­ter she got a Kona slot through the Legacy lot­tery. He and Model crossed the fin­ish line to­gether. It was her 50th Iron­man fin­ish. He’d done just a few more than that.

In June, 2008 Wragg was hit by a car while out train­ing on his bike. A bro­ken hip would nor­mally side­line most peo­ple for up­wards of a year. A few months later he fin­ished Iron­man Canada. A year later he had to have the hip re­placed, so th­ese days he power walks more than he runs the marathon.

Since he re­tired from teach­ing, Wragg has be­come even more of an Iron­man ma­chine. In 2013 he fin­ished 14 full dis­tance races. He’s such a reg­u­lar at events that it’s im­pos­si­ble for him to get through a race site with­out be­ing stopped ev­ery few me­tres. “It takes us for­ever to get any­where,” Model laughs.

Here’s hop­ing that mak­ing Wragg our first re­cip­i­ent of Triathlon Mag­a­zine Canada’s Life­time Achieve­ment Award won’t make him even more pop­u­lar at races and slow down their progress even more.– KM

John Wragg above John Wragg and El­iz­a­beth Model fin­ish to­gether at the 2013 Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship op­po­site Wragg rac­ing the 2013 Subaru Iron­man Canada

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