Countdown To Kona: The Pass (1984)

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With the Ironman World Championship set to take place 25 days from today, we take a look at back at each race from the past three decades. Today, we go back to 1984 and the moment Dave Scott shocked the crowd and passed Mark Allen with less than nine miles to go. All of the following photos and text are taken from the book, “30 Years of The Ironman Triathlon World Championship” by Bob Babbitt.

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Written by: Mike Plant

It was hot. Somewhere along Hawaii’s Kona Coast a cool breeze was blowing, but there wasn’t a hint of it in the parking lot of the Kona Surf Hotel. Overhead, a clear, cloudless sky. The bright mid-day sun blazed, beating down on the head and necks and backs of the large crowd of volunteers and photographers. Video cameraman and reporters who had gathered to watch over 1,000 athletes trade the ridiculous for the simply impossible; trade a pair of soon-to-be damp and sweaty running shoes. For most onlookers, damp themselves in the steamy humidity, the emerge thought of walking to a nearby Pepsi Cola vendor was torture. The idea of running a mid-afternoon marathon was insane.

There were those who were willing, however. Paid for the privilege even. This was, after all, the Ironman Triathlon World Championship. Eight thousand fools from 31 countries had applied for entrance into the event and only 1,300 had received letters of acceptance. One thousand athletes started the race. Since the heat destroyed so may, some who go in would live to regret their “good fortune.” Some who had done the race before were stunned at how tough the event had come in just one year. Other first-timers were shocked to find that the Ironman was not only as nasty as everyone had said; it was much, much worse.

By quarter after one in the afternoon, the lead men had already arrived and departed. Mark Allen had been first, rolling in at approximately 10 minutes before the hour, wearing a face of almost dreamlike concentration. Dave Scott, in second place, was still several miles down the road. He wouldn’t arrive for nearly 12 minutes. In the smug words of one knowledgeable but grossly mistaken reporter, “Allen looked as if he could fall down and crawl half the marathon and still win.”

Allen was lean and very fit, well rested and very confident after his win over Dave Scott in Nice, France just four weeks earlier. Allen pedaled in the lead quickly, then proceeded to put minutes and miles between himself and second place. Lost in concentration as he spun his way through the bleak, lonely black lava desert, Allen had only the ABC camera van and a bike marshal or two on motor scooters for occasional company. Behind him, Scott seemed to be struggling. Almost everyone conceded the race to the skinny guy from Southern California. “The run is my strength,” says Allen. “In my mind, with the lead I had off the bike, there was absolutely no way Dave Scott was going to beat me.”

Allen started celebrating early in the marathon. “During the first 10K through town I was high giving my friends in the crowd,” he continues. “I was going to be the Ironman champion. At the bottom of Pay and Save hill I was still the Ironman champion. When I reached the top and started into the lava fields, I was completely out of gas. It’s hard to win the Ironman when you’re walking the marathon.”

In just minutes, he went from a sure winner of the most prestigious triathlon in the world to just another endurance freak trying to finish.

Scott insists that he though the race was over as well. That assertion is hard to believe considering the way Scott flew into and out of the Kona Surf parking lot with his singlet on backwards.
“This is my island,” Scott seemed to be saying. “This is my race.”

When the lead finally did change hands, a couple of miles before the turnaround at the 17-mile point, it happened very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that the ABC camera crew following the leaders got caught setting up for a static shot on the road, tearing things down and hopping in their van.

“We have a new leader in Dave Scott,” came the message crackling over the walkie talkie.

“Ahhh, we’ll check on that,” replies and embarrassed voice from the camera van.

What happened was very simple. Scott was running a sub-seven minute pace on his way to an Ironman marathon record. Allen was walking, jogging, talking himself into merely staying in the race.

To see the complete Countdown To Kona series click here.

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