Inspiration is seeing “I Can’t” written all over someone who has chosen to ignore that and charged forward with the rocket fuel of saying “I Can”.

Greatness is fulfilled when improbability and all the reasons why something shouldn’t happen gets zeroed out by someone going for it and doing it anyway. The IRONMAN World Championship is fertile ground for these kinds of life-defining moments to happen. One of those inspirations who achieved greatness was an unlikely giant of a guy named Darryl Haley.

From offensive lineman to IRONMAN finisher, Darryl Haley did the impossible.

If you follow football from the 1980’s, you might know Darryl Haley. If you were around IRONMAN in the mid 1990’s you definitely know Darryl Haley! He’s charismatic, and he’s big!

In the mainstream realm of football, Darryl played six seasons as an offensive lineman. And that position doesn’t get handed over to the little guys. It’s dominated by the biggest players on the field and Darryl Haley was no exception! His playing stats were a height of 6’6″ and a weight of 300 lbs. That’s custom made for moving other blocks of cement around the field who are after your quarterback.

He played for the New England Patriots, the Cleveland Browns and the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately he was sidelined with an intestinal issue the one year his team went to the Super Bowl.

After his time in the NFL, Darryl wanted something to take him to that physical edge again. He wanted to go to places other people told him not to. What better way to get that than to take on the IRONMAN!

“After retiring from professional football, I maintained an active lifestyle and love for the outdoors. I recall watching footage of the IRONMAN triathlon one afternoon with some other former professional football players.”
“I was inspired by the challenge. But more importantly, I was aware that it was a challenge designed for a different body type, if not a different race. As a 6’6” African American, I knew that the physical challenges would be only one part of it!”

He was not custom made to be a triathlete. If you added my body weight to Greg Welch’s body weight, our total would come in eleven pounds shy of what Darryl was going to have to pull around the IRONMAN World Championship course all in one body!

With his passion for fitness, Darryl covered his bases. He went to a number of triathlon training camps in the hub of triathlon at the time in San Diego. Darryl wanted real guidance. He knew endurance was going to be nothing like being ready to be an offensive lineman.

I was at one of those camps. Seeing a human Darryl’s size on a bike was a life changing experience.

“I embarked on the exhaustive training, learning to swim, and building endurance in cycling and running. The discipline was a familiar part of this, but the physical demands were of a different sort.”
“I found that the long training days allowed me to reflect on my life and past challenges and these reflections fueled my desire to succeed.”

Even though he was on a custom built frame, that was indeed the perfect size for him, it still looked like if he wanted he could just twist those skinny tubes into one pretzel shape mass. I don’t know what the tensile strength of those metal tubes were, but I am sure they were shaking and sweating trying to hold up under the force of his pedaling.

He was strong, super strong. And big, super big. And Darryl Haley was determined, super determined. He knew he’d be brushing the 17-hour mark and he did his homework.

Race day came. The swim made Darryl most tense. He knew that would be where he’d be cutting it the closest to the time cutoff. But he made it with minutes to spare.

The bike was like sailing. No wind was going to slow Darryl down, not even the winds of Hawaii!

The run was as planned. Some running, some walking. But in the end Darryl Haley accomplished the improbable. He has become one of the greatest inspirations in IRONMAN’s 40-year history by overcoming everyone else’s “impossible”.

Darryl finished with time to spare in 16:44:15

“I always say, the race day is just another day. It is the prior year that represented the focus, dedication, and learning that must take place. And then the day of the race  brought unexpected feelings and emotions…and challenges.”
“I believed that my success was measured incrementally. Taking my first stroke in the water, pedaling my first rotation on the bike, and taking that first step on the run. The positivity of each of those feelings provided the energy and desire to take that last step across the finish line”
“It was a record-breaking achievement, one that influenced the rest of my life and countless others to face their desired goals and meet the challenge!”

Yes, Darryl Haley zeroed out all improbability. He set a completely new standard for what is possible if desire, dedication and heart are fueling your journey.

This amazing 6’6″, 300-lbs former offensive lineman is more than deserving of one of the Top 40-Greatest Moments At IRONMAN. And by him crossing the IRONMAN finish line in 16:44:15 true greatness was achieved by a giant of a guy with a giant sized heart to match.

To see what Darryl is up to today click HERE.

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About the author Mark Allen More information on the author

I am the Founder and CEO at Mark Allen Coaching. I am proud to have been voted in an ESPN global poll "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time." During my multi-sport career I won the Ironman Triathlon World Championship six time, the inaugural Triathlon World Championship at the Olympic Distance in Avignon, France, and at one point in my career I won 21 straight races across every derivation and distance. It was a great career, but that's all it would ever be unless I was able to share all of the experience and methodology we invented long before smart watches, power meters, and flashy uniforms. That's why I started Mark Allen Coaching, as a way to return to others at least the part of the gifts I received.