They are just four words delivered to the sound of a thumping base track but act as the elixir of life for even the weariest of triathletes as they enter the finishing chute. “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” is the iconic affirmation delivered up to 2,000 times a race, in events all over the world, by the voice of the sport, the inimitable Mike Reilly.
For the past 25 years it is almost certain that those triumphantly finishing the hallowed 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42.2km marathon, from the USA to New Zealand, will have been bellowed to glory by the announcer whose Twitter handle simply reads: @IronmanVoice.
In a rare interview, Reilly swaps the microphone and madness of the finish line for the more intimate discussion forum as the latest legend of the sport to be interviewed by John Newsom and Bevan James Eyles on Thanyapura’s Legends of Triathlon.
In an hour-long podcast where he is as upbeat as he is on race day, Reilly reveals how he was bitten by the triathlon bug when moving from Ohio to the birthplace of swim, bike, run, sunny San Diego.
He explains how a first announcer shift taken on a whim – believing it would be entertaining to take the fun out of friends that were – led to putting his own athletic pursuits to one side and carving out a career calling athletes home.
Fittingly, Reilly’s first Ironman is probably the most iconic race of all-time. He recollects the 1989 Iron War of Hawaii where six-time Kona winner, Dave Scott, and the star who would take his mantle, Mark Allen, were just yards apart throughout as they rewrote the record books.
Reilly remember fondly how it was also the year Dick Hoyt pulled his son cerebral palsy-stricken son, Rick, in an inflatable dinghy, before completing the bike and run as they beat the midnight cut-off and became the inspiration for so many to follow.
With so many tales from over 130 Ironman races, Reilly provides fascinating insights into race day, from the stress of the swim, to keeping his voice fresh, to his almost constant finish line presence and the reaction of those fulfilling their dreams- including his own son, Andy.
Ever professional, his attention to details means he reads through the full start-list four or five times before the race perfecting pronunciation and linking names and anecdotes for the race to come.
But above all he emotionally reflects on the way the human spirit shines time and again, as so many achieve what they never thought possible. As Reilly says: “They realise what they did was a monumental task. They are all Ironman.”
Victories fade, legends don’t. The Thanyapura Legends of Triathlon is a monthly podcast brought to triathlon fans by John Newsom and Bevan James Eyles. Legends already interviewed include Mark Allen, Greg Welch, Mike Pigg, Scott Tinley, Erin Baker, Karen Smyers, Scott Molina, Simon Whitfield and Spencer Smith