How Did the Ironman Triathlon Begin?

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How Did the Ironman Triathlon Begin?

In the world of endurance challenges, the Ironman stands out as one of the most arduous of all competitions. The combination open water swim, bicycle race, and full marathon force participants to use all the strength and agility in their bodies to make it to the finish line and hear the affirming words, "You are an Ironman". Like many other competitions, the Ironman started as a controversy between friends who later devised the challenge to determine the debate's winner.


Commander Collins' challenge

In 1978, Navy Commander John Collins and some of his friends debated the qualities of a great athlete and whether runners, swimmers, or cyclists train harder. They decided that the only way to determine this was to force the athletes to compete in a variety of disciplines.

The Commander and his wife suggested joining the Waikiki Rough Water Swim, the Oahu Bike Race, and the Honolulu Marathon into a single event. The local events were already annual favourites in Hawaii, and the legend states that Commander Collins quipped that whoever finishes all three events is an ironman, thus bestowing the name on the competition.


The first Ironman

The Ironman Triathlon debuted in February of 1978 when fifteen men showed up to participate. A far cry from the current elaborate set up, the men had no water, electrolyte drinks, or medical stations set up for them and competed with the equipment and support teams they brought with them. They even received reminders to bring their own bicycles. 12 of the original 15 competitors finished the race, and winner Gordon Haller completed all the events in 11 hours, 46 minutes, and 58 seconds. Commander Collins finished the race in just over 17 hours, while his wife assisted with logistics and recording competitors' times.


Contemporary Ironman competitions

Over the years, the Ironman Triathlon gained momentum through coverage by Sports Illustrated and ABC Wide World of Sports, attracting an array of competitors. For many athletes, the event now known as the Kona World Championship is the pinnacle of athletic competitions. Participants must earn one of the 1,700 available spots through a qualifying event around the world or through a lottery system based on chance.

Ironman qualifying events take place in Australia, Europe, Japan, North America, South Africa, and South America. This variety gives the courses their own sets of challenges making the competitions different experiences for the participants.


Key moments in Ironman history

Lyn Lemaire competed in the 1979 Ironman, becoming the first woman to do so. Not only did she finish the race, but her finish time earned fifth place in the overall competition. The race moved to Kona, Hawaii in 1981, a move that increased the challenge of the bicycling event since it forced riders to manoeuver through lava fields with strong winds. It also gave the race director the ability to close the local streets, improving safety for the competitors.

The early 1980s

In 1982, ABC Wide World of Sports captured on film the closest margin of victory in Ironman history. The front-runner Julie Moss collapsed near the end of the marathon and crawled to the finish line just as competitor Kathleen McCartney sprinted across for the win. This gave the competition international fame and attracted more participants to the event. A San Diego financier offered the first prize money for the event in 1986 as a way to encourage the top two athletes to compete. The purse makes it possible for professional triathletes to compete for a living.

The late 1980s to early 1990s

The 1989 competition featured a shoulder-to-shoulder race between Dave Scott and Mark Allen. Scott fell back near the end of the marathon, and the spot retains the moniker "Dave and Mark hill". In 1997, the race added a category for physically challenged athletes. Even though they compete in a special category, these athletes have the same time restrictions and challenges as the other athletes.


How to buy Ironman gear on eBay

If you want to try your hand at a triathlon or dream of competing in an Ironman competition, you need a variety of gear like wetsuits, bicycles, running shoes and products like electrolyte powder for training. Fortunately, you can find it on eBay. To search for these type key words "Ironman training watch" in the search box and click to see the available listings. As you review the listings look for the conditions of each item and communicate with the seller to find out important information like manufacturer's names so you get the equipment that works best for your body.

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