It’s very different than the gathering of fifteen grassroots friends with a wager back in 1978. IRONMAN has become a force and its future is more than just triathlons. IRONMAN has joined ranks with many of its high profile endurance cousins around the globe and taken them under its wing. From half and full marathons (Rock ‘n’ Roll Series) to mountain biking (Cape Epic) to cycling events (Cyclassics and Velothon) IRONMAN had gone from small niche to the powerhouse of endurance sports.
It’s gone from humble beginnings years ago with little in the way of attention to what we witnessed last year with live coverage streaming on networks, Red Bull TV and it’s very own IRONMAN live broadcast. Even from the other side of the planet you felt like you were an intimate part of the slow-baked tension that builds step-by-step, hour-after-hour under the sweaty sun of Hawaii.
The future of IRONMAN is here. Yes, it comes with both criticisms and accolades. That’s just what happens when you are the one stretching the limits of what’s possible. But safe to say the continued vitality and health of IRONMAN’s future remains unshaken. That’s because it still lies safely in the hands of the same people that created its past. Those guardians are the athletes who pursue it with a passion.
IRONMAN’s unwavering core is each of us slugging it out to the last second with our toughest competitor, which is always ourselves. IRONMAN demands roping in self-doubt and coming up with a personal reason to keep going. The heart of IRONMAN is a dream. It’s a calling that says you are going to dive in head first without really knowing what lies ahead because something deep inside says you have to. It’s a dream to take up the challenge and let the experience change your life.
The heart of IRONMAN is about discovering a hugely positive part of yourself you would have never become partners with otherwise. It’s uncovering a strength you never knew you had because the only way to reveal it was when you were asked to pass the tests of doing an IRONMAN. The heart of IRONMAN is also revealed through simplicity. It’s seeing how doing something as basic as swimming, cycling and running when done with focus can completely transform your body and energize you forever.
Each competitor will have a story to tell about their journey from absolute beginner to being an IRONMAN finisher. Every tale will be worth listening to. Each person’s chapter will be inspiring because at its core you’ll hear how they found what we all must discover to overcome life’s challenges. The journal of IRONMAN has depth and texture and richness because of the discoveries along the way that in no way would have happened had the athletes just given up and gone on to something else.
That’s just how it is when you are the best at the front breaking the wind for all to follow. Every step IRONMAN takes in its future will be scrutinized. The rest of the sport will always have an eye looking to see what it’s doing. What innovations is IRONMAN bringing? What pitfalls has it shown us we can all overcome? How is IRONMAN making the experience better for everyone?
Triathlon as a whole is in the big leagues. And with that popularity the innocent environment of years past has changed. With more fame to claim the unscrupulous will bend the rules to gain advantage and steal the limelight. When the value of the pie goes up, the stakes for mistakes also get amplified. IRONMAN always takes a step beyond that. Its future will always be linked to its timeless ability to answer every challenge posed.
40-years of priceless moments is a deep reservoir to draw from. It’s a perspective that we are honoring today on IRONMAN’s birthday. We are celebrating those who have nurtured its growth. We are remembering where IRONMAN came from. Today is also a time to ask what’s next in its future. Looking into the heart IRONMAN, of where it came from, will show us what’s possible going forward
Take a look 40-years in reverse and you’ll see what IRONMAN’s guiding force is. Remember where IRONMAN was born. It didn’t hatch in San Francisco or Paris or Beijing. It didn’t grow up in Sydney or Santiago, Frankfurt or Cape Town. The future of IRONMAN will stay healthy by remembering the spirit of the land where it was conceived.
It became a dream 40-years ago on the most isolated island chain on the planet: the Hawaiian Islands. It took its first real steps on the Big Island of Hawaii. The IRONMAN would be just another local race missing its unique and mesmerizing face had it been set in motion anywhere else.
For sure IRONMAN’s future will have challenges. No groundbreaking journey happens without them. But IRONMAN is about overcoming the insurmountable, about setting new standards and finding a way to make the next step taken be even better than the last. We can all support this legacy and be part of its rich future by embracing IRONMAN’s essence, its roots. What blessed the IRONMAN from day one was the spirit of Hawaii. And Hawaii’s sweet intangible, lovable force is the spirit of Aloha!
That was the theme of the IRONMAN World Championship in 2017. Aloha is Kindness and Unity. It’s being Agreeable and having Humility. It’s being Patient not only with others but with ourselves. Those are qualities that create dreams that make us all better. Searching for solutions to the impossible challenges takes on clarity when we ask how the spirit of Aloha would view them?
With Kindness we do everything we can to make our racing fair even if that means we lose a second and our fellow competitors gain one. With Unity we see that decisions must be made that ensure we all gain a step up rather than a small few being catapulted to unattainable heights. When the future is guided by Aloha and Patience we take time and extend our hand of experience to those just starting out in the sport to help them touch the dream of becoming an IRONMAN. With the Humility of Aloha we continually ask how this can be made better for everyone, not just me.
It has filled the cup of challenge to overflowing. Those who have taken a sip have been transformed forever. It’s not just a race, and it’s not only a sport. IRONMAN is a way to experience some of the deepest and most amazing facets of life. Because of the training to prepare, the community of support built to get to the start line and then giving it everything possible on race day, few corners of a person’s character are left untouched by the journey to become an IRONMAN.
The past 40-years of dreams are all connected. They’ve created the rock solid foundation for the next 40-years that will take IRONMAN into the future. That future will see amazing racing. It will see impossible times posted and records broken. But what will be the hallmark of IRONMAN’s future will be its enduring ability to bring out the best of the human spirit and to touch us all.
If you missed any of the previous two posts in this series, here are the links:
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.