CLEARWATER - The idea of a triathlon race began with runners who participated in the 1977 Oahu Perimeter Relay in Hawaii. The race included "teams" of five runners per team that would race around the island. One of the runners was a fellow named John Collins, a U.S. Navy Commander. It was stated that Collins questioned whether bikers were the best fit athletes in long-distance races. Collins believed the only way to resolve the debate of which athlete was "best fit" was to have a race that included all three major long-distance races of the day: biking, running and swimming. It was felt that one triathlete race would include 2.4 miles of swimming, 115 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running - all in one race. Thus, the challenge went out to athletes who felt they could finish the incredible race.
According to reports, Collins proclaimed, "Finish this race and you could brag for the rest of your life."
Whoever finished first would be called "Ironman."
Thus, in 1978 twelve conditioned athletes completed the first Ironman Triathlete.
Gordon Haller won the race in 11 hours, 46 minutes and 58 seconds. He was the first Ironman. The first female winner was Lyn Lemaire who finished sixth overall.
The legend of the Hawaiian Ironman continued and included a local Clearwater area doctor named James Gills. Gills was known as a successful eye surgeon and had a passion for being fit. Perhaps it was the good fortune of the Ironman race that Dr. Gills had such a passion for the Ironman race.
In 1989 Dr.Gills acquired ownership rights to the Ironman Race. Of course, and true to form for this entrepreneur, Gills began to make plans to make the Ironman one of the world's best long distance races. Today, the Ironman has become a family business that includes Gills' children Shea and Pit (also an eye doctor). Thus, the Ironman has grown into a successful triathlete long distance race.
There are several forms of the original race, there are Half Ironman's, Double Ironman's and other varieties that vary according to location conditions.
Clearwater will host on November 11 what is referred to as the "Half" Ironman. One-half of the full Ironman Race. The Clearwater event will have a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run.
How successful has been the impact of this triathlete race?
In Sydney, Australia the triathlon was included in the 2000 Olympics.
What about Dr. Jim Gills?
He has completed in six Double Ironman's and five Hawaiian Ironman's. It is believed he is the only runner to have done six Double Ironman Races.
Looking for something to do on Saturday the 11th of November?
Trying watching the Ironman live in Clearwater.
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