MORE THAN JUST A MAN WITH A MICROPHONE
Steve King is widely recognized as one of the most knowledgeable and distinguished voices in the world of triathlon. With a phenomenal ability to recall race splits, statistics, facts, figures and athlete tidbits, King has long been at the top of the race-announcing game. He has rubbed shoulders with the likes of legendary announcers such as Phil Liggett, has traversed the world to call races and his voice has been broadcast on CBC, CTV and TSN. But, as Triathlon Magazine Canada found out, Steve King is much more than just a man behind a microphone.
How long have you been race announcing and how did you initially get into it? STEVE KING: I began in 1981. I had formed a running club named the Penticton Pounders and started hosting some races so that I could get to race as there was no road running scene here at the time. I would usually finish at the front of the field in the early days and would then grab the bullhorn and start calling people into the finish. It progressed from there to being involved in organizing our first triathlon in 1983 (now called the Peach Classic Triathlon) and, that same year, the International Ultra triathlon (which later became Ironman Canada and Challenge Penticton). I was asked to be the announcer at both. Later I was asked to be the announcer for a cross-country ski race in Salmon Arm, B.C. which I still announce at (the Reino Keski-salmi Loppet) and many other events followed.
You were once a fine endurance athlete yourself. Tell us about some of your own sporting achievements. SK: I was always a runner in school – track and field and cross-country – then I went to race-walking when I was around 21 and worked on the London Stock Exchange. Race walking was a popular sport and they hosted 7 mile, 25 mile and the London-to-brighton (85 km) events. I ran some marathons – my first being a 2:41 effort. When I moved to B.C. I returned to running and enjoyed ultra racing and also did my first full-distance event in Penticton in 1984 and the Ultraman triathlon in 1994. I have raced the Badwater Ultra in Death Valley and was only the second Canadian to have completed it (coming fourth in 2001). I also completed the Comrades marathon in South Africa in 1999 (90 km) and was first Canadian and seventh master that year. There are too many results to mention, but other notable performances are my marathon PB
in 1981 of 2:36:54, in 1983 my 50 mile (80 km) PB of 5:36:23, second Canadian at the National 50 mile Championships in 1985, two-time winner of the Hawaiian Ironman Precursor Marathon in 1987/88, setting a course record 2:37:58, four-time age group winner at Coeur D`alene Marathon, winner of the inaugural Haney to Harrison 100 km in 1997 and a member of the Canadian National 100 km team from 1995–97. In terms of triathlon events, in 1984 I finished sixth at Ironman Canada (second in my age group). In 1989 I came 48th at Ironman Canada (5th in my age group), in 1994 I finished second at Ultraman Canada (11.8-km swim, 320-km bike, 84.3-km run) and was first in my age group and, in 1999, I finished 206th at Ironman Canada (fifth in my age group).
“I WOULD USUALLY FINISH AT THE FRONT OF THE FIELD IN THE EARLY DAYS AND WOULD THEN GRAB THE BULLHORN AND START CALLING PEOPLE INTO THE FINISH”
That’s an incredibly long list of running and multisport achievements. As an announcer can you describe some of the most iconic events you have worked and some of the stunning places you have visited. SK: I have announced at the Commonwealth Games, Pan American Games, ITU World Triathlon Championships in Florida, New Zealand, Australia, U.K. and Muskoka, the World Police and Fire Games, the Ironman World Championship, Ironman New Zealand, the Ultraman World Championship in Hawaii, Ultraman Australia, Ultraman Florida and Challenge Roth. I did get to race the Black Pearl Triathlon one time in Moorea, Tahiti, which was an absolutely gorgeous place and one that will stay with me forever.
For you, what’s the most rewarding thing about calling races? SK: Seeing others attempting to achieve their goals, sometimes exceeding them and sometimes experiencing setbacks. I get to witness their achievements first-hand and vicariously experience the highs and lows of so many athletes. There have been many occasions when I’ve witnessed someone Dnf’ing or missing a cut-off time, but returning another year and succeeding. This is just so fantastic to observe.
Any standout moments from all your years announcing that are truly inspirational? SK: A couple of memories that stand-out for me include when Tom Evans won Ironman Canada in front of his home crowd after previously placing second. Also, when Sister Madonna finished Ironman Canada at 82 years of age and when double amputee Andre Kajlich finished Ultraman. What lessons do you believe we can learn through participation in endurance sports? SK: The depth of relationships, perseverance, humility, gratitude, awareness of Mother Nature, the nature of volunteerism, warriorship and that “sometimes you win more by losing.” There are many metaphors shared between life and putting one foot in front of the other to achieve a goal; ultra events can provide a purpose, help us lift above the mundane, to truly delve into the depths of our psyches, to be capable of compassion, empathy and camaraderie, a sense of belonging to a “tribe.”
Aside from sport, what other pursuits occupy your time? SK: I have a full-time job as a clinical counsellor. I’ve written four books on the subjects of energy medicine, PTSD, Authenticity and Existentialism and recently made two online Udemy courses on PTSD and Authenticity. I am happily married to Jean and we’ll be celebrating our 40th anniversary this November. She has assisted me at hundreds of events. I love music and there are numerous other projects that fascinate me.
Steve King on his way to second place, in 8:44:19, at the 1976 London-to-brighton race-walk