Ironman entry would be easier to get if it wasn’t so easy to complete an Ironman.
Yes, you read that right. With most Ironman races allowing up to 17 hours to complete, as long as you meet the segment cutoff times most anyone can find a way to get it done. Take Glen Jusczyk for example.
At Ironman Louisville 2010, 35-year-old Glen Jusczyk completed the bike segment of the Ironman in Kentucky on a single speed BMX bike. He also swam in non-spandex swimming trunks and ran in cargo shorts. His overall time was around 15 hours. While a lot of professional triathletes are able to complete an Ironman race sub-9 hours, Jusczyk isn’t a threat to take the podium.
"My message is that anybody can do it if they want to, and probably have all the stuff you need already at your house. That's as ‘old school' as you can get," Jusczyk recently told the local newspaper.
It may be old school, but to some it may seem pointless and somewhat silly...sort of like running a marathon backwards or perhaps dressed like a clown like THIS guy.
Sure it can be done, but why should it be done? If you have the time and money to sign up for an Ironman race, you can do it too! Therein lays the problem. If someone can volunteer at an Ironman race for preferential registration times, get online in time, or pay for a foundation spot, regardless if they have proven they can complete this distance, they can sign up, take a spot and try some crazy stunt or take 17 hours to complete the race.
What if Ironman looked at setting entry limitations instead of coming up with $1000 ideas for registration ?
Before you leave a hate mail comment, think about it.
What percentage of athletes have you met that ran an Ironman or wants to, just to do it? What about the athletes that love the sport but don’t have the means to get registered for an Ironman branded event because all the slots were filled by the time they were able to register? These people compete year after year whereas the “just to do it” people might train up for that one major event and call it good and move onto some other life challenge. They get the spot because they have the extra time or money, or both.
Ironman, in the minds of many, is no longer the ultimate test of endurance. Over the years it has changed into a money making big business.
According to the EverymanTri article about Jusczyk, It used to be that about 2000 amateur athletes raced one of a handful of Ironman races around the world. Now that number of amateur athletes has grown to almost 3000, and the number of worldwide Ironman has increased to nearly two dozen. Furthermore, there are now as many half Ironman 70.3 races around the world as there are weeks in the year.
Setting limits, not regulating Ironman entry is the key.
NFL, NBA, and the NHL while not endurance sports, have a regular season to get to the playoffs. The playoffs are a whole other animal than the regular season. You have to prove yourself in the regular season among your peers to qualify for the privilege of competing in the playoffs. Should the same be said for Ironman? WTC and Ironman may not be happy with that idea, but the demand is still great enough to sell out every event.
Should you have to qualify in a 5150 series event to be able to register for a 70.3 event? Should you have to qualify in a 70.3 event in order to register for a 140.6 event? No longer will you have “old school” athletes that may cause confusion and obstacles during a race because they are inexperienced or running a gimmick. Registration would not be based on what spot in line you are or how much money you can throw at it. Spots are allotted per event, guaranteed to qualifiers and given out at roll-down just like 70.3 and Ironman championship event entry. WTC wins as they would require someone that wants to register for an Ironman have to race a 5150 and 70.3 event. It would be difficult for participants that cannot find a local 5150 or 70.3 event, but perhaps the WTC could work with other event organizers such as USAT to make other races “Ironman Qualifiers”. Most athletes run an Olympic or a 70.3 event in preparation of an Ironman anyway. Cutoff times need to be addressed as well. At 17 hours, as long as you make the swim and bike cutoff, most participants could walk the marathon portion and complete in time. Should it be 11 hours, 12 hours, or 13 hours?
Nothing is definite except that it stands to reason that in order to uphold the integrity of the Ironman distance, something needs to be done to keep it from becoming the Moneyman Ironman.
*Writer’s note: I have never competed in an Ironman distance race. It is a goal of mine and I would have no problem with having to qualify to run a 140.6 distance race, even if it meant I had to keep trying year after year. This isn’t meant to degrade anyone in the sport. Props to anyone that has completed an Ironman. But, with the WTC producing so many events and the Ironman registration process so cumbersome, something needs to be done before demand wanes or athletes become apathetic.
Ryan Falkenrath writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, and is a married father of two, owner of three dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. Ryan has participated in multisport events since 2001. Ryan is also the Kansas Endurance Sports Examiner and you can read more of his triathlon thoughs HERE. Contact Ryan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan
*All opinions expressed in this story are by the author and are not necessarily those of EMT.