I wonder what it was like the day that Dr. James Naismith hung the peach basket up in Springfield mass. That was the birth of basketball. Or to be in Canton, Ohio when pro football was born. I was thinking along those same lines when I got the chance to meet an Ironman legend. Tom Knoll is one of the original group of 12 men who finished the first Ironman triathlon. It happened 30 years ago.
To be in on the start of something, to have the vision to conceive of a task so daunting was remarkable. In 1978, Knoll was a 45 year old military man. Marine. In the span of thirty, years the baby he helped conceive and birth has grown worldwide. It has given us Mark Allen, Paul Newby Fraser, Dave Scott, Scott Tinley, Sister Madonna, Macca, Dick and Ricky Hoyt and many, many more athletes and dreamers, including this multi-Ironman finisher.
Saturday, I met Tom Knoll. Mickey Ryzmek ,the gregarious Race Director hooked us up. Tom, and his son, Warren were in town and taking a little break from their Freedom Run across American.
They were near the end of a 3300 mile journey to raise funds for three charities. The Challenged Athletes Foundation, Sunshine Foundation, and Wounded Warriors. They were aiming for a July 4th finish in D.C. Patriotic?? You bet.
Tom is 75 but still is going around 30 miles a day. Also along for a chunk of the running was Hubie Krawczyk , who along with Warren puts out the US Multisports Guide. Its a great publication. Heres the Link and they are just Great Guys.
We met at the 5k run for the West Side Catholic Center in Cleveland. I signed up but wanted to run with Tom. This was no day to try to rip off a fast time, I was meeting a legend.. We had a blast. Tom goes about 13 minutes per mile. But he just goes and goes and goes. We ran together and chatted.
I asked Tom about what it was like 30 years ago at the birth of the Ironman
"We were just hoping to finish the task in about 24 hours. We had no idea!!!.
"What was your time, or did you really get all that technical with timing and stuff"?
"I think I did it in around 12 hours. I finished 6th. I had the third fastest marathon."
" What are your thoughts about the explosion of of Ironman??"
"I think its fantastic. I love being an ambassador for the sport. It hard to imagine Ironman has become a multi-million dollar corporation"
"What replacement fuel did you use in the first race??"
"I think I asked for a root beer. I also had a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich, along with the water"
"Whats been the response from Americans during your Freedom Run"?
"Amazing. The town of Defiance, Ohio came out in full force. Raised about 5,000 for us. We still are way short of our One Million dollar goal, but its been fantastic. To see real Americans along the way has been wonderful."
Near the end of the run, I gave the US flag to Tom and when we ran towards the finish chute, everyone was clapping and cheering. I stepped back, away from Tom, Warren and Hubie and Pam, and ran after then to the line. I interviewed Tom and Warren. for FOX8....had a little pancake breakfast and parted company.
Tom was truly inspiring, unassuming and a pure pleasure to meet. Warren is amazing too. He was injured very badly a few years back, yet he is an Ironman, and in fact is biking the same mileage each day, so will concurrently run AND Bike across America.
To help the Freedom Run..go to http://www.usfreedomrun.com/ . Also I have a LINK to a great t.v. piece about the run done by a Milwaukee Station. They are now heading to PA. and will dip down in 2 weeks to finish in the nations capital. Cleveland triathletes, note that Warren and Hubie will be back for the Greater Cleveland Triathlon at Mentor Headlands on Aug 10th. They would love to meet yah.