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With the Ironman World Championship set to take place two days from today, we take a look back at each race from the past three decades. Today, we go back to 2007 and the year Chris McCormack finally crossed the IM World Championship off of his list. All of the following photos and text are taken from the book, “30 Years of The Ironman Triathlon World Championship” by Bob Babbitt.
At a pre-race media event in 2002, McCormack told anyone who would listen that he was hoping to win the Ironman six times, just like his idols Dave Scott and Mark Allen. Some felt he was cocky and had a big mouth. Dave Scott? He felt McCormack may want to win number one before talking about number six.
On race day, McCormack found himself with the two German leaders, Thomas Hellriegel and Jurgen Zack, as they approached Hawi.
“I asked them if it was okay if I led at the turnaround,” says McCormack. When they nodded yes, he rounded the cone and looked skyward.
“We’re leading the Ironman,” he said to Maroney. “We’re leading the Ironman!”
But about nine miles into the marathon, McCormack was walking the Ironman. Then he was out of the Ironman. The following year (2003), he walked most of the marathon but still finished. And the year after that, in 2004, he dropped out again, this time in the Natural Energy Lab. Mark Allen happened to be out there in a car for NBC and picked up the totally distraught McCormack.
The following year, in 2005, he won the Quelle race in July even though he was 10 pounds overweight. Then he ran 2:49 off the bike in Kona and took sixth. In 2006, it was 2:46 off the bike and a second place by 71 seconds to Normann Stadler.
Then in 2007, even though two-time defending champion Normann Stadler was throwing up and had to drop out of the race on the bike and 2005 champion Faris Al Sultan was so sick that he didn’t even start, McCormack could see that the battle for the win was going to be intense.
Two-time champion Tim DeBoom was pushing the pace on the bike. Craig Alexander, the 2006 Ford Ironman 70.3 World Champion, was doing his first Ironman in Kona and having a stellar day. And two-time champion Luc Van Lierde, the course record holder, was hanging touch as well.
As McCormack sized up the pack, he felt those three had the best ability to run with him. With about 14 miles to go on the bike, Van Lierde pulled up next to McCormack.
“You’re going to win this race,” said Van Lierde. “Be smart in the marathon. This is your day.”
At the first run turnaround on Alii Drive, he was able to see his pursuers for the first time.
“Crowie looked magic and Tim looked great. I thought, ‘If I blow up, They’ve go to blow up, too,’” recalls McCormack. “But I was feeling good and committed to the pace. The last thing I wanted to do was give them the opportunity to run on my shoulder.”
Tehe fast pace was eating quickly into the lead of Lieto and Sindballe, but by the Natural Energy Lab McCormack was in the lead. But the race was still way too close for comfort.
As he reached the top of Pilani, he knew his lead was secure. He was on his way to a 2:42:02 marathon and he needed it all. Alexander was putting on a running exhibition of his own, and his 2:45:13 put the pressure on McCormack all day long. But now he had over three minutes and could savor the biggest win of his life.
It was time to finally cross the Ironman off The List.