If there's anyone on the planet who deserves to be at the Ironman World Championship it's John Wragg, who just completed his 222nd full-distance race.
July 20, 2017 | PERSONALITY|
856.92 km of swimming. 40,015.5 km of cycling. 9,359.52 of running. Total distance covered? 50,231.94 km. I know people who trade in their cars before they get to that number on the odometer.
That's how many km you cover when you do 222 full-distance races. John Wragg is the Ironman of Ironman racers. And, after finishing 12th in his age group in Frankfurt at the Ironman European Championship, Wragg was shocked to see the Kona slot in the men's 65 to 69 category (he's 66) roll all the way down to him - he'll be Kona-bound again.
It's been an amazing journey for the retired school teacher from Mississauga, Canada (just outside of Toronto), who did his first triathlon at a small event in Milton, about 30 mins away from his home, in 1986. Two years later he did his first full-distance race and, from then on, the numbers just kept growing.
Over the years I've got to follow Wragg's progress as he has put the "Ironman finish" record out of reach for just about anyone else on the planet. I was on hand for number 100, achieved at Ironman Malaysia in 2008. I was there for #137 in Nice, France in 2012. I couldn't get to 200, achieved in Cozumel in 2015, but was around for a few of the 200+ races, including #221 at Ironman Austria. Even though I live about 30 km from Wragg, I see him more on the road than I ever do in Canada.
What's amazing about Wragg is that he truly is a fan of the lifestyle. He's not just trying to pad his numbers with "less challenging" events (notice I didn't say "easy"- no full-distance race is "easy"). He was in Lanzarote in May earlier this year - "I love to support Kenneth Gasque," Wragg says. Wragg is big on giving back and supporting. He's a big supporter of his club, the Canadian Cross Training Club. Sometimes he'll arrive at my house with boxes of Ironman gear that he's collected from around the world to give to the athletes I coach.
He loves the lifestyle and the traveling - he and wife Elizabeth Model have competed at every Ironman race in the world - when a new event springs up they are amongst the first to enter. And its not just long distance triathlon events that the endurance junkie gets in every year. He and Model have competed in marathons around the world, including the Antarctic. He can't compete in Tremblant this year because .. he's got cross country ski races to get done in New Zealand and Australia. (Who goes to ski in Australia? I guess John Wragg.)
As if the guy isn't amazing enough, he does all this on a hip that had to be replaced after he was hit by a car in 2008. He can't run anymore, so he finishes the marathon in each and every one of his full-distance races at a fast walk.
So, as far as I'm concerned, Madame Pele has decided that John Wragg is deserving of another chance to compete on her beautiful island in October and arranged that spot for him. Last week we posted a story on just how fast many of the qualifying times were in Frankfurt. It seems all-too-appropriate that in one age group the speedsters decided they didn't want to head to the Big Island, making it possible for a very deserving Ironman to get another chance to compete there.