4020 years of num­bers with the sport’s big­gest name IRON­MAN TURNS

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Front page -

The leg­end of the in­au­gu­ral Iron­man in 1978 is well known and this year marks the for­ti­eth an­niver­sary of that ground­break­ing event. Fif­teen brave, and some­what anx­ious, ath­letes be­gan that first race, 12 fin­ished. Gor­don Haller won with a time of 11:46:40.

A few months shy of the first Iron­man’s 20-year an­niver­sary, I com­pleted my de­but Iron­man brand race: Iron­man Canada. My time: 11:47:40, just 60 sec­onds slower than Haller. I was hooked.

Since then, I’ve spent the 20 years closely in­volved in the sport: 10 years as an ac­tive ath­lete, with 29 Iron­man fin­ishes at 12 global race venues, in­clud­ing rac­ing at the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship in Kona three times. After re­tir­ing, I’ve re­mained deeply in­volved by at­tend­ing three to four events per year as a jour­nal­ist, an­a­lyst and photographer.

When I started rac­ing Iron­man events, there were eight global races: Aus­tralia, Canada, Europe, Kona, Ja­pan, Lan­zarote, New Zea­land and Switzer­land. Within a year, I had fin­ished four: Canada, Europe, Switzer­land, New Zea­land and I would get to Kona soon after.

My ob­ser­va­tions were that each seemed to be chal­leng­ing, but ex­cel­lent ex­pe­ri­ences, well or­ga­nized, and, im­por­tantly, not over­crowded (yet). The ath­letes in these races were, for the most part, se­ri­ous about rac­ing, highly

pre­pared, and able to de­liver fast times.

Near the end of Iron­man’s sec­ond decade, how­ever, the dy­nam­ics of the sport be­gan to change. Rather than a month or two pass­ing be­fore cer­tain races would fill up, sud­denly, they could be sold out in one day. I re­mem­ber hun­dreds of us who com­pleted Iron­man Canada 1998 in sti­fling heat sit­ting in the line to reg­is­ter for the next year’s race a mere 12 hours later.

A surge of in­ter­est in rac­ing and be­com­ing an Iron­man had be­gun and has not waned, for the most part, for the next two decades. I call this the “Iron­man Race Boom.”

1998 2010 2012 2014 2015 2016 2017

The Iron­man Race Boom

Then, it seemed ev­ery­thing changed, lead­ing to a stag­ger­ing amount of Iron­man races avail­able all over the world.

It seemed that an­nounce- ments of new races were re­leased ev­ery few months. For ex­am­ple new races in Panama City Beach, Fla. and Lake Placid, N.Y., came along in 1999, as did a new races in Europe and Asia. In the U.S. more races were soon added at Cal­i­for­nia’s Camp Pendle­ton mil­i­tary base in 2000, Madi­son Wisc. in 2002. I raced in each one, in­clud­ing Aus­tria in 2001.

More were added over the en­su­ing years, in­clud­ing wildly pop­u­lar events in Frank­furt, Brazil, France, South Africa, U.K. and Western

Aus­tralia. At the same time, how­ever, Iron­man Europe, one of the orig­i­nal eight, was dis­con­tin­ued to great dis­ap­point­ment, as was Ja­pan, and the new ad­di­tion Iron­man Cal­i­for­nia was scrapped after two years.

Races added be­tween 2005 and 2011 rep­re­sented a bit of a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, as eight races were added, but five were even­tu­ally dis­con­tin­ued. Cozumel, Louisville and Texas were added and re­main ex­tremely pop­u­lar; China, Re­gens­berg, St. Ge­orge, along with Malaysia and Korea were added, but over time, re­moved from the sched­ule. (Al­though Malaysia and Korea have re­turned.) The 2010 Kona qual­i­fy­ing races for 2010 are shown in the top right chart.

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