Once the triathlon was introduced to the sports scene, it didn't take long for it to take off as an important endurance competition. The Ironman, in particular, pushes its participants to the limits and is the ultimate test of endurance of both the mind and the body.
Soon after the first triathlons were raced, triathletes began to debate which part of the race required the most endurance. As a result of these debates, the lengths of each section of the race were adjusted. Navy Commander John Collins was instrumental in coming up with the standards for each section of the race.
In 1978, Collins helped to form the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon which combined the Waikiki Rough Water Swim (2.4 miles/3.8 kilometers), the Oahu Bike Race (112 miles/180.2 kilometers) and the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles/42 kilometers) into one event. Out of the 15 athletes who participated in the first event, 12 finished the race. The first Ironman, Gordon Haller, finished in 11 hours, 46 minutes and 58 seconds [source: Ironman History].
In 1979, one woman and 13 men completed the competition. The first female Ironwoman Lyn Lemaire finished fifth [source: Ironman History]. The next year, thanks to a Sports Illustrated article about the race, hundreds of people entered the competition. By 1982, 580 athletes competed, and the event was covered by media outlets like ABC World Wide Sports. Currently, 1,800 athletes compete in this race [source: Ironman].
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