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The 33rd Annual Ironman World Championship

What began as a local challenge has grown into a premiere world competition!  In 1977,  San Diego-based John Collins proposed combining the three toughest endurance races in Hawai’i – the 2.4-mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim, 112 miles of the Around-O’ahu Bike Race and the 26.2-mile Honolulu Marathon – into one event.

Fifteen people came to Waikiki to take on the inaugural Ironman challenge on Feb. 18, 1978.  Prior to the race, each received three sheets of paper with a few rules and a course description.  The last page read: “Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!”

In 1981, the race was moved to its current location in Kailua-Kona.  On October 8th, there will be 25 women and 40 men who have qualified via the Professional Ironman qualifying series, which  includes 28 events (23 Ironman and five Ironman 70.3) throughout the world.

Any tri-athalon is an impressive feat to complete.  Hell, I’m impressed by those who choose to even undertake such a challenge.  But, when you bring the best of the best together to a venue like Kailua-Kona, where in addition to facing desert-like conditions of the barren lava fields, they also have to deal with winds up to 45 mph that regularly blow there, its an even more impressive sight to see.
In the years since its inception, there have been heart warming stories to come out of the Ford Ironman World Championship event and I thought I would go back and take a look at a couple of the more memorable ones.  These people did not necessarily win the race, but they have certainly won the hearts of many who witnessed their courage…like the Hoyt’s.  Incredible enough, but even more amazingly,  Dick Hoyt had just recovered from a heart attack before running this race.  You’ll have to watch this video to appreciate Team Hoyt…and watch his son’s, Rick’s, reaction at the end!  (The video is less than 5 minutes long, but I guarantee it will capture your heart.)

Or what about John Maclean of New South Wales, Australia?  He entered the Ford Ironman World Championship three times in 1995, 1996, and 1997 before finally completing the course.  This former rugby player was determined to finish the race…no lofty ambition of winning, just finishing the race…and be the first to do so in a wheel-chair.

In 1988, 22-year old John Maclean was hit by a truck while ironically out on a bike ride, and lost the use of both legs.  Not satisfied to rest on his Ironman-laurels, in 2000, John was the first wheelchair athlete to swim the English Channel.   And, in 2004, came back to Hawaii to become the first wheelchair athlete to complete in the Molokai Challenge canoe race.

Beginning last year, professional athletes must qualify to enter the Ford Ironman World Championship…no more wildcard entries.  There is a point system set up that the top qualifiers are offered an invitation and if they should decline, the next in line is extended an invitation till the allotted slots are filled.  In addition, there are three other divisions:

  • Age Group,
  •  Physically Challenged, and
  •  Hand Cycle divisions.

So, who’s competing in this year’s event?  Here’s the complete list of qualified professional entrants:


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