Winning the Iron War: Mark Allen Recounts

Mike DojcCorrespondent IMay 16, 2009

By Mark Allen, as told to Mike Dojc

In 1989, after six unsuccessful attempts at the race, Mark Allen defeated Dave Scott in the most exciting race in Iron Man history. This is his story...

I went to New Zealand in the winter before the race and trained down there for six weeks on the south islands. I didn't have any distractions and in those six weeks I saw how much training I could take if I just really focused on it, and it opened my eyes to what I could do physically.

Mentally I was very afraid of the race and I was very afraid of Dave Scott, so I really focused on bringing my strength over to Hawaii and not worrying about the heat, the wind and the distance, and Dave Scott.

A couple days before the race, I was flipping through a magazine and happened upon an advertisement for a workshop on Huichol Shamanism in Mexico. There was a picture of these two shamans that were going to lead it, one was a 109-year-old Indian named Don Jose Matsuwa and the other was his adopted grandson Brant Secunda.

I had never heard of either of these two men or Huichol Shamanism, I knew what Indians were obviously but I didn't know anything about this tradition. Anyway, in the middle of the marathon, at about mile 13, I was right with Dave Scott, way ahead of everybody else and we were both on pace to break his world record (8:28.37).

One of us was going to do it. Midway through the marathon I started to get real tired and I thought "Ah jeez, not again...here he goes, Scott's going to win...I'm never going to win this crazy race."

I got so caught up with trying to keep pace with Scot that my mind became totally quiet and, at that moment, the image of the old shaman came back into my mind; he just had this look on his face in the ad that said "I'm happy just to be alive," and somehow that started to give me strength.

I realized I'm happy just to be here next to this guy—nobody else is. I just felt like I was gaining energy from this image of Don Jose and I just got stronger and stronger from that point on. I knew that I could win it after that vision but I didn't know if I was going to.

With about mile and half to go on the final uphill, I pulled away. I knew it wasn't over yet. On the downhill there was a chance that my quads could cramp, something bad could happen but then when I got to the bottom of the hill and looked back I couldn't see Scott.

I ran the last three quarters of a mile with the biggest smile on my face and tears of joy running down my face because it was so hard to have the race I was hoping I could, and it had taken so long to get there.

Mark Allen finished the race in eight hours, nine minutes, and 15 seconds. The current record of eight hours, four minutes, and eight seconds was set by Belgium's Luc Van Lierde in 1996.

If you missed my Ironman history, here it is.