Triathletes should watch their step
A New York man has canceled an unsanctioned triathlon race after being threatened by the World Triathlon Corp.
IRONMAN competition has become so successful since its inception nearly three decades ago that some enthusiasts might regard "ironman" as a household word. They are wrong, as a triathlon outfitter found when he tried to stage an "Iron" race in the New York City area and wound up with a cease-and-desist order from an Ironman -- make that Ironman® -- lawyer.
Ironman competition evolved in the 1970s from a debate about whether cycling, running or swimming was the best test of athleticism. Within a few years, the competition was moved from Oahu to the Big Island.
More than 40 events worldwide are now sanctioned by the World Triathlon Corp., which owns the Ironman brand name. Ford Motor Co. last year became the title sponsor of six Ironman Triathlon races, including the Oct. 15 world championship in Kailua-Kona.
Christophe Vandaele, a triathlete and triathlon outfitter in Manhattan, organized what he called an "underground" Iron-distance race that was to be held last Saturday. Participants were to swim 2.2 miles in a lake north of the city, pedal bicycles 112 miles into Manhattan and run 26.2 miles in Central Park, finishing at Times Square. Fifty people paid $40 each to compete.
Frank Jakes, a Florida lawyer for the triathlon corporation, sent Vandaele a demand that he not use "Iron race" or "Iron-distance" in his materials. He further threatened to bar Vandaele from competing in sanctioned triathlons if he went on with his plans to hold the competition.
"Triathlons are my life," Vandaele told the New York Times. "I can't spend the next 40 years watching other people compete." He canceled the event.
Vandaele and other Empire State triathletes should be content with the eight-year-old Ford Ironman USA Lack Placid, the oldest official Ironman on the mainland. Held last month, it drew more than 2,000 athletes from around the world to upper New York, according to the Ironman Web site.
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