Part 1 of 4
by David Corrigan and Sherry Bracken
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii: Kona becomes a carnival of athletics when the Ford Ironman World Championship races into town.
1,800 athletes descend on the bayside Big Island village, joined by an even greater number of family and supporters, industry professionals, media, and volunteer Kokua Crew.
The day-to-day population swells and major highways are shut down to accomodate the legendary 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile race.
Kailua Village becomes inundated with athletes, geared up in high tech – often skimpy – athletic garb… lampooned in the annual Underapants run, which features a sarcastic jaunt of male and female athletes in their skivvies, BVDs or tighty whiteys
But by race day, it is down to series business… When the army of athletes hit the water early, and don’t stop until the sun goes down over the hot lava fields of Kona.
Hard to believe that all this arose from a debate during a 1978 awards ceremony for a running race held in Hawaii… One participant, Navy Commander John Collins devised the grueling race in order to settle the argument; a proposal to combine three existing races together, to be completed in succession: the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the Around-Oahu Bike Race, and the Honolulu Marathon. The punishing race would crown the “Ironman” as Collins called it… that first ironman was Gordon Haller, who finished the race in 11 hours, 46 minutes and 58 seconds.