In the obstacle racing world, Hobie Call is a giant, the sport's first legend. In his kitchen in Erda, Utah, the wiry 35-year-old stands about 5' 8", eyes twinkling through rimless oval glasses.
This is the man everyone wants to meet, a headline writer's dream. "Air Conditioning Repairman Unstoppable!" "Father of Five Dominates Grueling Race!"
Holbrook "Hobie" Call certainly didn't believe he'd become a sports icon in his mid-30s; he has a wife and five kids between the ages of three and 13 to support. But he could never shake his dream of becoming a professional athlete. That dream gripped his heart at age 10 and never let go.
It wasn't just some wild boyhood fantasy either. Hobie really had talent. When he was nine, he entered his first marathon in St. George, Utah, then dropped out after 9 miles because the media attention was too much for him to handle.
Everybody wanted to talk to the little prodigy, the sixth of 10 kids from Star Valley, Wyoming, whose dad had once clocked a 2:34 marathon. But Hobie was chronically shy. He tried to run the marathon again when he was 13, but dropped out with a hip injury.
At 15, he decided to bike more than 200 miles from his father's place in Provo to his mother's home in Star Valley, Wyoming. It took him a day, and later on, his 12-year-old brother, Forest, rode all the way back with him. That's how Hobie did things growing up—going on grand adventures and playing outside.
He excelled at running in high school. As one reporter tells it, Hobie won his high school meets by such a wide margin that he had more than enough time to flip around and cross the finish line backward. Competition brought a showboater out from behind that reserved exterior.
Hobie went on to earn a scholarship to the College of Southern Idaho, where he was an All-American in track and cross country, which was nice and all. But most important, he got to train with a raven-haired beauty one year above him who was also attending college on a running scholarship. Her name was Irene, and she was fast, and somewhere in between preseason running camp and two-a-day practices they started to fall for each other.
Irene liked Hobie's laugh and upbeat attitude. It was hard to get to know him, though, because of his shyness. But Hobie made sure Irene would never forget him when the two entered a boxing ring together to spar for some extra cash and Hobie accidentally clocked Irene right in the jaw. She couldn't open her mouth for a week.