By Ron Adkins
Heart of America News
I just read an incredible book.
Matt Fitzgerald’s Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen & The Greatest Race Ever Run (Velo Press,
ISBN: 9781934030936) chronicles the now-legendary 1989 Ironman World Championship and
the rivalry between triathlon’s two greatest competitors.
Dave “The Man” Scott came to Hawaii in 1989 having already earned six previous Ironman gold
medals. He was hungry for a seventh. Scott is widely considered the prime shaper of the sport,
setting the standard for other triathletes to follow.
Mark “Grip” Allen was a 10-time winner of the Nice International Championship and had won the first World Olympic Distance Championship. He came to Hawaii in 1989 hoping to break the string of six failed attempts at Ironman victory.
Their encounter at the Ironman is now regarded as one the truly great moments in sports, and the
most significant race ever run.
Author Fitzgerald engages the reader beautifully, following the two racers from the premature
cannon shot to start the swim leg, to Scott’s and Allen’s side-by-side foot race from the bike-run
transition to the last mile.
For long-time triathletes and fans, the next sentence isn’t a spoiler. Mark Allen eventually pulls
ahead of Scott and wins his first Ironman Championship by a mere 58 seconds. He would go on
to win another five Ironman’s before retiring.
While the details of the actual race is the suspense that kept me turning pages, it was the
story behind that race that stuck with me the most. Fitzgerald, in a way, uses the Ironman as a
backdrop to spotlight the competitors, each at the turning point in his career. Dave Scott was the
undeniable king of triathlons hoping Ironman 1989 would solidify the crown. Mark Allen was
the triathlete tired of watching Scott’s back as he crossed the finish line.
The author uses the sport of triathlon as a metaphor, asking the questions, What makes a
triathlete run? What is it about this sport that motivates people to push themselves through the
wall of endurance?
“The magnitude of the satisfaction that a triathlete experiences upon crossing a finish line,”
writes Fitzgerald, “is directly proportional to the amount of suffering he has overcome to get
there. This reward knows no ability. Even the slowest of the slow can push themselves beyond
existing limits and finish with tremendous satisfaction.”
That, says the author, is what triathlon is all about. Digging deep into untapped reserves, to excel
beyond expectations, is what drives triathletes to cross the line.
In writing about Dave Scott and Mark Allen and their epic race, Fitzgerald answers the question
for us all: The fulfillment of any goal is worth the pain of achieving it.