The first IRONMAN was held in Waikiki in 1978 and combined three of the island’s premier endurance events into one. What started with 15 competitors has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, with thousands of qualified athletes toeing the line in Kailua-Kona every October.
While the gear, nutrition and finishing times have changed significantly since the first race in 1978, the competitive spirit and desire to push oneself to the limit hasn’t. Like the original slogan said: Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles, brag for the rest of your life!
With 40 years of inspirational, motivating and just-plain-crazy moments to pick from, here are seven of our favorites from past IRONMAN World Championships.
Iron War1 of 8
What many triathletes consider the greatest IRONMAN World Championship ever, 1989 saw the two strongest athletes of their time locked in the battle of their generation. Dave Scott and Mark Allen's rivalry came to a head when they raced neck and neck for the entire race, finishing 58 seconds apart and both shattering the standing course record by almost 20 minutes. After five losses to Scott in previous years, it was finally Allen's day as he cemented his legendary status in the sport. Together they proved how important the mental aspect of the race is, as well as the power of healthy competition.
The Crawl2 of 8
It's one of the most iconic scenes in IRONMAN World Championship history. With an eight-minute lead over her closest competitor, Julie Moss collapsed less than half a mile from the finish line. After a three-minute break, Moss continued, collapsing several times along the way. With 15 yards to go, Moss crawled towards the finish line as she was passed by race winner Kathleen McCartney. Moss crossed a heartbreaking 29 seconds later. Her 1982 effort was featured on ABC and is attributed to the massive spike in registrations a year later.
Close Calls3 of 8
The 1983 IRONMAN World Championship produced the closest one-two finish in the history of the race. How close? 33 seconds were all that separated Dave Scott from the rapidly approaching Scott Tinley. After losing his six-minute lead out of the swim to Tinley on the bike, Scott regained the lead during the marathon. As the final miles ticked by, Scott hit the proverbial "wall," and Tinley began to inch closer and closer–so close he could see Scott cross the finish line as he sprinted down Ali'i Drive.
Age Is Just a Number4 of 8
Not many athletes can brag about finishing the IRONMAN World Championship more than 20 times, let alone competing in their 80s. Lew Hollander, a physicist by trade, attributes his longevity to consistent cardio workouts and going anaerobic every day. Who are we to argue? After crossing the finish line in 2012 at 82 years old with a time of 16:45:52, Hollander holds the record as the oldest finisher in Kona.
The Crawl, Part Two5 of 8
Like a page taken out of Julie Moss' book, the 1997 IRONMAN World Championship featured one (technically two) of the most famous finishes in the race's history. Sian Welch collapsed in the finish chute due to a lack of calories, with Wendy Ingraham collapsing just behind due to cramps. The duo then staggered, crawled and collapsedtowards the finish line—using the fence for support. Ultimately both Ingraham and Welch crawled the remaining distance, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
Carfrae's Comeback6 of 8
No matter the time deficit exiting T2, never count Mirinda Carfrae out. At the 2014 IRONMAN World Championship, Carfrae started the marathon leg 14:30 behind then-current IRONMAN 70.3 Champion Daniela Ryf. Not only did Carfrae make up this deficit (she passed Ryf at mile 22), but she went on to become the IRONMAN World Champion for the third time and holds the record for biggest comeback of all time. Better yet, her superhuman marathon effort set a new record at 2:50:26.
The Queen's Collapse7 of 8
In a disastrous effort to save time, Paula Newby-Fraser deviated from her hydration and nutrition plan, ultimately causing her to lose the 1995 IRONMAN World Championship. With the victory all but secure, Newby-Fraser collapsed 300 yards from the finish line—completely disoriented and unable to continue. Her 11-minute lead slowly began slipping away as she sat on the course while spectators and race support showered her with cold water. She crossed the line 20 minutes later in fourth.