IronMan Triathlon, Hawaii (Big Island)
Kailua-Kona is the home of the world-renown Ironman Triathlon, where competitors from all around the world, from ages 18 to 70, swim 2 miles, bike 100 miles and follow it up with a marathon. Who dreamed up of this torture? Actually, it mustn't be greuling enough as 10,000 athletes a year qualify for the race. We got there late in the day to see some of the stragglers, but that was an interesting, inspiring sight in itself, as people, including a woman on an artificial leg, struggled on in a state of near exhaustion. As we approached the finish line we saw why -- the public address announce treats every finisher as a winner. And they are!
Some of the athletes planned special finishes. Many approached the line with their families, some carrying babies on their shoulders. Others had their national flags. A Japanese competitor changed into martial arts garb and crossed with identically-clad wife and son. But the best plan was a runner from New York who crossed the line, bent down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. The Ironman people rushed a microphone to the scene and the asembled crownd all heard the exchange, cheering when "yes" was the answer. When asked on-mike if he had carried the ring the entire race, he answered affirmative. Wow!
Kailua-Kona is the home of the International IronMan Triathlon Championship, held every October. This race consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a full marathon (26.2 miles).
Equipment: Lots of training, a swimsuit, bicycle, and running shoes. Did I mention lots of training?
To be one of the 1500+ starters, you have to run in qualifiers (full marathons or 1/2 triathlons).