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IRONMAN
Barry McDermott
May 14, 1979
To earn that title, Tom Warren victoriously swam 2.4 miles through rough seas, bicycled 112 miles and all ran a marathon, all in a single day of agony
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May 14, 1979

Ironman

To earn that title, Tom Warren victoriously swam 2.4 miles through rough seas, bicycled 112 miles and all ran a marathon, all in a single day of agony

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Tom Warren lay on the grass and talked as onlookers stood in awe. When he tried to rise he held out a shaky arm and a slight man in his late 60s pulled him to his feet. A little later there was a minor commotion. Cowman was jogging by, just starting the first phase of the marathon. He had taken almost 2½ hours in the ocean and just under nine hours on his bike. His real name is Ken Shirk. When he works, it is in construction, usually in Lake Tahoe. As he passed he let out a weird, loud yodel.

Of the 15 entries, 12 finished. A Naval physician from San Diego, Frank Day, wrenched his knee in the swim and had to quit midway in the marathon. And two youngsters, Dave Heffernan and Dennis Cahill, had assorted mishaps and retired from their agony in the run. Emberson was third in 12 hours and 23 minutes. Haller needed 12:31, strengthening as the day progressed and as he got farther from the debacle of the swim. His marathon time was fastest of the group, eight minutes faster than Warren's. Lyn Lemaire finished fifth overall in 12:55. She ran hard at the finish. Henry Forrest improved his overall time by 35 minutes, sir. Cowman finished in 16 hours and 41 minutes, his horns in place.

Warren was waiting when Dunbar crossed in second place. This was the real awards ceremony. Dunbar's numbed eyes widened when he saw the winner, now recovered in the 48 minutes he had put between them. The youngster's knees buckled and his body weaved a swaying dance. He was mumbling thickly, offering his congratulations. Warren quipped, "Ready to go bar-hopping?" But the dazed Dunbar was rushed off and wrapped in blankets. For a brief time his legs were paralyzed.

While Dunbar's handlers gently poured warm water over him, Haller, the deposed champion, and Warren, the new one, went off together and sat in a Jacuzzi, swapping training stories until midnight. It was, they agreed, a way of life. In another room, Hank Grundman and six others who had served on various support crews dozed in exhaustion. After two hours Warren emerged from the Jacuzzi. Later he tried to talk someone into breakfast, but there was no one still strong enough to lift a fork, so at 1:30 a.m. the new champion walked in the rain down a deserted Honolulu street. He was wearing a T shirt and shorts. A couple of miles away, Commander John Collins stood sentinel in the park, waiting for his son, Mike, still running early in his marathon. The youngster would finish at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Tom Warren shuffled down the street unnoticed, hands in pockets and head bent under the rain, moving back middle age another day, going the distance, cursed to win so that he will not lose, the bright-eyed Mariner, all alone, alone on a wide, wide sea.

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