We asked the Endurance Films Racing Team for their perceptions of Kona, inviting them to share when they first watched, what inspires them, whether they seek a spot to race there. Here are their responses:

I’ve been a Chrissie Wellington fan for years, so her absence from Kona this year has left me in a bit of a funk. Luckily, family friend and Wisconsin firefighter Robert Verhelst is competing at Kona as part of a series of races he is doing this year with Ironman Foundation. Rob is doing the full run in his firefighter gear both as a tribute to 9/11 victims and as a fundraiser for Code 3 for a Cure. I’m in awe of anyone who can complete an Ironman, so doing it with all that extra weight (and heat!) is unbelievable to me. I’ll be tracking Rob’s progress online and cheering from home. Donations to Code 3 for a Cure can be made through Rob’s site www.firemanrob.com. (~Megan Severa)

Kona is one of the rare events in the sporting world where the setting is integral with the competition itself.  Like the Masters at Augusta National and Daytona 500, The World Championships are known to even those with a passing interest in the sport by the location in which they take place.  The lava fields will bring back memories for those who have watched any past race for meltdowns and great performances.  I have yet to race the Ironman distance, but the goal if/when I do is to be fast enough to qualify for a spot, whether I was to take it or not.  Kona has helped triathlon become more popular, or at least better known, as it is shown on broadcast television and has been for some time.  Short of this, most would never see a triathlon in action.  In this years event I will be watching the action online to see the pro action shakeout (with Craig Alexander winning again no doubt) and to see a few local athletes attempt the course for their first time.  Kona is the most inspiring triathlon as it is the best of the best at a hugely challenging distance, an epic challenge that few competitions of any type can measure up to. (~ Tom Norton)

When I was just a young girl, all of 8 years old, I was flipping through the pages of a newspaper and I came across an inspiring picture of Ray Browning, a professional triathlete, finishing an Ironman triathlon. I was amazed that the human body could be trained for such an undertaking to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a 26.2 mile marathon – one right after the other! This is when I first become aware of the sport of triathlon and the Ironman distance. The idea of one day doing a triathlon was born for me that day. Not soon after this, I discovered I had a talent for running and since have competed in college. It wasn’t until my adult years that I started doing triathlons. I have loved every minute of it and have set many goals for myself. I have learned about Ironman World Championships that takes place in Kona. It is often referred to as just KONA by enduring fans and athlete hopefuls. It is the ultimate physical challenge and KONA is where the best of the best in the world take on the distance. As like many other aspiring serious athletes I too dream of qualifying and competing at the Ironman World Championships and completing the Ironman distance one day. (~Lora Erickson)

My first Kona, I'll never forget.  I was playing basketball with a bunch of friends and on a water break a commercial for Kona said that it was actually going to be on later that night.  It was at that point that I was challenged that I wouldn't be able to do an Ironman because I didn't have the body type.  8 years and 60 triathlons later I've done 4! I'm really pulling for Jordan Rapp.  Ive known him since he was an age grouper and watched his rise in to the upper ranks of the elites.  I know he wouldn't be going if he didn't think he would have an impact on the race and I'm excited to see him mix it up.  I think he and Kienle are going to make a lot of guys work hard on the bike this year. There are a couple of local guys who go a lot and I always like to cheer them on, and I have a few friends going for the first time this year. I will probably watch parts of it online.  I get really sucked in to it so I try to stay away unless I know there's nothing that needs to be done. I'll race it one day, but to get there I wold have to do another Ironman, with my focus on short course and speedier racing next year I think it might be a while! Knowing the work these guys and gals put in day out is inspiring.  Even more impressive is that some  have been doing it for years just to get there for the first time.  The determination of triathletes is a powerful thing!  (~Nick Logan)

The first time I ever watched Kona, I was locked up in my room attempting to study for a test. I was amazed at all the stories and the inspiration behind each individual. One year later, I went to a Kona viewing party and we debated on who would win and become the King/Queen of the island. I actually won, and was left with a little satisfying cash. Now, this year after 3 years of my own triathlon experiences, volunteering at Ironmans, and understanding the training involved for such an event-- I am still amazed!! My Coach, friend, and most amazing women I have ever met will be competing in Kona this year, and she is actually expected to win the Amateur Females. My excitement cannot be held back as I look at my teacher succeed so well in this Ironman adventure. Her very first marathon, very first Ironman a mere few months ago..and there she will be, just 10 hours away from being crowned the Queen-Bee. I CANNOT wait to watch and see!! (~Liz Baugher)

I have been doing triathlons since 1978, and have seen almost all of the punishing, and sometimes unkind Kona races. Memorable races all, because of the many heroic efforts of so many amazing athletes. The moments most emblazoned would have to be the immense grueling battle between the King of Kona Dave Scott and "The Grip" Mark Allen, Sarah Reinertsen (below) crossing the finish line as the first woman amputee finisher, and the "come back" trouncing Macca did to all those that spoke nay. Kona, being the biggest beast of all, and having its illustrious and goof-ball history, holds its one of a kind spot in triathlon. The distance has turned many an unknowing possible participant away from doing a tri, because of the "I could never do a triathlon" thinking, ("all are ironman distance races, right"...). Yet, due to its most prominent TV coverage of any triathlon, it also spurs the dreams of many to become one of us, a triathlete, and maybe, God willing, an Ironman! (~Scott Endsley)

I've watched the last two Ironman World Championships online, dropping in and out throughout the day, but then getting reeled in during the run. Last year I was on Facebook, furiously posting status updates and commenting on others, just compelled to share the excitement with fellow triathletes. Afterward, I could hardly sleep. I watch very few sporting events live or on TV, but for me, Kona is an event not to be missed. I guess it's my Superbowl or my World Series, so I catch the livestream and then later, the broadcast edition. I really should wear my heart rate monitor this year, because I'm pretty sure just watching it is a Zone 3 workout. I'm pulling for Timothy O'Donnell on the men's side, and of course for his speedy fiance, Rinny Carfrae! Double wins would be amazing. I don't have any Ironman/iron distance plans in my near future. I'm still having fun going fast and furiously, and the shorter distances fit better with my family life. But I'm inspired by Sister Madonna Buder, still doing IMs in her 80s. I have time ;-)  (~Cortney Martin)

To me Kona is the ultimate in racing destinations.  I first started paying attention to Kona after racing in my first triathlon and since then I have watched the highlight reals every year.  Eventually I would love to race at Kona and will continue to work toward that goal. This year I think the favorite has to be a repeat for Craig and a win for Rinny. (~Bill VanCise)


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