Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Iron War...The Battle of Mark and Dave

Ironman 1989 was my second year covering the event. My first year was spent in a press truck, this year I was given the opportunity to shoot the race from a motorcycle! In 1988, I had hoped to see Mark Allen and Dave Scott go head to head, but at the last minute Dave dropped out with knee problems. Mark had a poor showing that year due to bike problems- he finished a disappointing 5th overall.

Dave Scott and Mark Allen duel on the Queen K.

This year looked to be the year. Mark and Dave were in the shape of their lives and it seemed like we were going to see the equivalent of a WWF smack-down on the Lava. There was some pre-race trash talk going around and Mark had said he had made peace with the island gods- adding fuel to the fire.

I don't remember as much about the race as I should but that run is what I remember the most! Mark and Dave came out of bike to run transition only seconds apart. Soon they were running side by side and it continued for the next 24 miles. Two men running side by side for 24 miles? Crazy! I had to get to the finish line so I wasn't there when Mark pulled away from Dave with a mile and a half to go. He finished 58 seconds ahead of Dave- winning his first ever Ironman Triathlon World Championship in a course record time of 8:09:15.

Most have seen the iconic image taken by Lois Schwartz of Mark and Dave on the run. She had the best seat in the house- shooting from the lead vehicle (a Mustang convertible). When I finally came upon the scene of Mark and Dave, it was full of contrasts. Outside of the core group surrounding them was pure chaos. Officials were yelling at everyone, trying to keep a buffer zone around them.  I could not get a view to see what was happening. The ABC crew had a giant van that was on them like glue. I remember the guy in the van had a camera on a pole he was using. Anyway, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I was allowed into the circle. Once I got next to Mark and Dave it was deadly silent. The only sounds were of shoes slapping the pavement and two guys breathing hard. I was astounded at the peacefulness of the situation and the fact the two could be so close and yet each in their own world. They never glanced at one another or said a word!

Mark and Dave running side by side
about Mile 20.
I took a few images, but soon I was told to move on. I wanted more. It was obvious I wasn't going to make it into  the circle again, so I headed up the road, got off the bike and put my fisheye lens on my Olympus OM4T. As they approached, I held the camera low and tried to grab something of the two as I ran beside them for 15 seconds letting the motor drive blaze. Geez those guys were running FAST! This is the image I like best. I don't think it has ever been published, but I like it. I remember them both giving me funny looks at some point, then they were gone! What an amazing pace! Mark ran a 2:40:04 marathon- absolutely remarkable.

It was a total surprise at the finish to see Mark win. He broke down in tears, overcome with emotion. When Dave crossed moments later, you could see he was devastated. Unfortunately, someone had to come in second. Since the Iron War, Mark and Dave have told their versions of the story. Today it remains one of the greatest stories in all of competitive sport. I was happy to be able to see it first hand!

Mark Allen wins his first Ironman World
Championship in 1989.


  1. It was an amazing race, and a story that I dust off and tell quite frequently. There was no way I could have predicted how the race would unfold. There had never been before and has never been since a race where first and second place were within feet of each other for the entire day like that.

    For me it took infinite patience to just hold the pace and avoid the urge to surge in hopes of securing a lead early. That had not worked in earlier renditions of this battle. It also took surrendering to the most uncomfortable scenario possible, which was to know with every fiber of my being that Dave would not crater, give in, give up or otherwise waver. It would only be possible to win if I could outrace small feat against a guy who had six titles to his name going into that race.

    But it all worked, and you were there to capture the mood that day. Thanks for doing that!

    The Grip
    (Mark Allen)

  2. That is simply awesome that you were there to witness such a historic battle - and capture it on film. Fantastic job Rich!


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