And it is nearly impossible to have that kind of friendship and camaraderie span decades and cover everything from enjoying a dinner together to combining efforts that have arguably changed endurance sports.
One of those people for me is Scott Zagarino.
And for those in the “I know Scott Zagarino” category, it’s probably split right down the middle between those who sing his praise and those who want to wring his neck.
That second group is loaded with individuals who were trying to forward their own special interests over doing what was critical to raise triathlons as a whole to a new level. Zag, as most of us call him, just happened to step in their way and not let them further their own corner of the world at the detriment of the sport.
The topic was the split of prize money for men and women at the 1989 ITU World Championships in Avignon. This was the first ever ITU World Championship and the cornerstone that focused triathlon’s trajectory into the Olympics eleven years later in 2000.
There were a lot of interests outside of what was best for the athletes that wanted to make the split men heavy, and even take some of the proposed prize purse and funnel it into areas of the sport that would never really help support the athletes who would end up being the stars in those Olympics. Without the greats in a sport as inspiration, there would be something missing and Scott knew that.
It was with Gatorade, who is no small player in the big picture of sport. Just think NFL and you would see their banners everywhere at that same time. How did he do it? He simply connected the dots of a company that needed to expand its credibility into the world of endurance sports with an event that represented the pinnacle of that realm. He also knew what it would take to keep Gatorade as a strong supporter of IRONMAN. Unfortunately the decision makers at IRONMAN at that time didn’t take his guidance. IRONMAN no longer has Gatorade as a title sponsor.
Zag also started the Pioneer Triathlon Team (the Pioneer of audio speakers fame). The overriding purpose of that team was to raise money for kids with AIDS. The athletes commitment went beyond just racing. They spent time outside of training to be with kids who were dying of AIDS. Give them a few moments of hope and happiness. Yes, his work has helped the sport, but also those who are really, really in need.
He grew up in the rough areas of Miami, Florida. If you didn’t stand your ground you never had a chance in life. The complete opposite of that, Zag went through a Zen Buddhist Monk training that is very intense in nature to come to a place of complete compassion. Yes, he is a rare mix of background: experience and heart. And he’s still doing what he can to make the sport of triathlon better!
Zag has been helping revive the legacy of my time racing in the sport. He called me up about two years ago and asked how things were going. I said pretty good. He said I don’t believe you! That’s the honesty of someone who has known me for over three decades!
He said he’d been searching the Internet for info on me. Basically the only he was seeing were various comments about the 1989 IRONMAN. He said there’s so much more to what I did than just that one race. Yes, it was a landmark day, but not my only moment in his opinion. So for the last two years he’s been helping me revive lost stories and emotions from my career, the human stories.
They are a year by year view into my IRONMAN experience from 1982 through 1995. I first wrote those stories as factual accounts. But Zag pushed me. He had me revise every single one until I’d revealed the emotion of each. He knew my stories and kept me redoing them until the heart of each came out. I’ve never shared them as they are now!
He’s continuing to help expand my reach and impact in the world of Endurance Sports. That’s the compliment. He knows how to do that! I don’t. It’s been a vision of mine for years. But his insight is making it now possible. Stay tuned. We’ve got a lot of great things coming!
Learn more about Scott Zagarino.
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.