IronMan – The history of how it all began

IronMan challenge

The 18th of February marked 38 years since the first IronMan

The first edition of an Ironman was held on February 18, 1978. The idea of its creation was John Collins, an official of the US Navy with his wife thought of combining three sports in a long distance challenge suitable only for the strongest and most daring athletes.

That first IronMan had fifteen competitors, including John Collins. The competition involved the combination of the swimming a distance of 3.86km in the Waikiki Roughwater, followed by 185.07km cycling and running 42km. Of those brave fifteen who took on the challenge, twelve managed to finish the winner was Gordon Haller, who finished with a time of 11 hours, 46 minutes and 58 seconds. Collins proposed came up with the name IronMan for the winner, and now year after year people from all over the world take part in this 3 stage event.

Since the first IronMan, there are many great stories from a range of different people. Here we have listed some of the most important:

Lyn Lemaire, the first Ironman
Only a year after the first edition, the competition was held again, but this time with an initial enrollment of 50 participants. However, bad weather forced the event to be delayed by one day, reducing the number of riders to just 15. This time, the winner of the race was Tom Warren, with a time of 11 hours, 15 minutes and 56 seconds. During this event there was a woman taking part! Her name was Lyn Lemaire and crossed the finish line in sixth place, becoming the first IronWoman in history.

Lyn Lemayre

Ironman 1980, international recognition
It was in during the third year of the IronMan when the co-founders gave television rights to WWS. Until then, the competition had been growing in fame in the country, gaining followers and participants but not enjoy international recognition. But the arrival of the cameras and TV broadcasting ended up turning to the test in a world famous race, growing in followers and competitors massively each year.

IronMan challenge

Julie Moss and the image that went down in history
After just two years since the first television footage of the event when the cameras started rolling during the 1982 edition of the IronMan, they recorded an image that would circle the world. Still there were no social networks and the Internet as we know it today, no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram but in fact, it was not necessary. With just a few meters to go until the finish line, student Julie Moss was leading the race! However, exhaustion and dehydration took over and her legs gave up preventing her from reaching the finish line, but her pride and motivation gave her the strength to dig deep and continue. She managed to find the strength to crawl across the finish line with everyone watching on TV. She didn’t win the race, but she did manage to finish.

Julie Moss

John MacLean, an example pure determination
Just being able to finish an IronMan test, no matter the time is a real test of determination, strength and skill. Back in 1997, there was another case which will go down in history as something very special from this extremely tough race. John MacLean was the first paralysed athlete to complete an IronMan challenge. He modified his bicycle so that he could use the power in his arms to move the bike. Definitely a true example of determination for all sports men and women.

John Maclean


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