Great sports starts are also born out of great sports rivalries. Whether it’s Bird/Magic, Brady/Manning, Yankees/Red Sox, Michigan/Ohio State, Palmer/Nicklaus, Seabiscuit/War Admiral, Fererer/Nadal, Agassi/Sampras, or Ali/Frazier, having a side to cheer for makes sports that much more interesting. The world of endurance sports has had some good historic rivalries that have been turned into some fantastic books. Had “The Perfect Mile” been a story about just Roger Bannister, it would’ve been worth a read. The race between Bannister, Australian miler John Landy, and American miler Wes Santee made it one of my favorite books of all-time. The inter-country rival of possibly two of the greatest middle distance runners of all-time (Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe) made “The Perfect Distance” another of my favorite book ever.
As a runner, I’m familiar with the sport of triathlons although I can’t claim to know very much about the history of the sport. Reading “Iron War” by Matt Fitzgerald, I learned a little about the history of the sport especially as it pertains to the classic Ironman race in Kona, Hawaii. The Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, followed by a leisurely 26.2 mile jog. Every year, the world championship Ironman takes place in Kona, HI.
“Iron War” takes a look at two of the biggest figures in Ironman history – Dave Scott and Mark Allen. Both considered pioneers of the sport, Scott and Allen have different philosophies and different training methods towards running this impossible race. Considered two of the pioneers of the sport, “Iron War” focuses on the epic 1989 race between these long-time rivals. Coming into the race, Dave Scott was six-time champion who had cut over 2 hrs and 40 minutes off the previous Ironman record. Coming into the race, Mark Allen is considered one of the greatest triathletes in the world, but Dave Scott has always had his number when it came the race in Kona.
I came into this moving not knowing or really caring about anything related to Ironman (Robert Downey franchise movie aside, of course). I found the story incredibly compelling. I may have enjoyed the book more than others simply because I had no idea how the epic race ends. Matt Fitzgerald, who I’ve read before in “Brain Training for Runners” and “Racing Weight” did a fantastic job here despite rumors of a lawsuit from Scott and Allen.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If my bookshelf were arranged by quality tiers, it would be sitting on the same shelf as some of my favorite running books ever (such as Running with the Buffaloes, Sub-4:00, The Perfect Distance, and The Perfect Mile).