Tuesday, April 12, 2016
“Whoever Finishes First, We’ll Call Him the Ironman”
Attorney Chris Llinas earned his law degree in 1997 from Franklin Pierce Law Center (now the University of New Hampshire School of Law). He recently opened his own practice, J. Christopher Llinas, Attorney at Law, in Ocean Pines, Maryland. An avid athlete who has completed 14 marathons, including two in 2015, Chris Llinas plans to run in the Marine Corps Marathon the week after he competes in Ironman Maryland.
“Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!” This handwritten note accompanied invitations to the very first Ironman competition held in Hawaii in February 1978. The competition, the brainchild of U.S. Navy Commander John Collins and his wife Judy, was intended to answer once and for all who was the toughest athlete: the runner, the swimmer, or the cyclist? Collins and his tablemates at the awards banquet for a local race had gotten into a heated debate over the question, which inspired Collins to combine a marathon with a demanding open-sea swim and a grueling bike race around the island of Oahu. Legend has it that Collins was so enthused by the idea that he jumped onstage at the event, grabbed the microphone, and announced the competition, declaring “Whoever finishes first, we’ll call him the Ironman!”
That first race had 15 competitors, of whom 12 finished. The winner was Gordon Haller, a U.S. Navy communications specialist. It’s said that runner-up John Dunbar, a Navy Seal, had a good shot at winning, but his support team ran out of water during the marathon, and so gave him beer instead.
In the years since, the Ironman triathlon has grown into an event of international proportions, and races are held on six of the seven continents. In addition to the “full” Ironman, many competitions include several events for different age groups, with stages of varying lengths, to encourage athletes of all ages to compete.