Up close with triathlon legend Ken Glah

Few in the sport of tri know the lava fields of Hawaii as well as this 50-year-old

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When you’re number 12 of 13 offspring you don’t have much option but to compete, but as a kid growing up in Pennsylvania, Ken Glah stumbled across triathlon and has never looked back.

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Even in Ironman terms, Glah’s longevity is extreme. Few in the sport can know the lava fields of Hawaii as well as the 50-year-old who has raced the world championship in Kona for the past 29 years.

During that time he has enjoyed an impressive 10 top 10 finishes, was third in 1988 and placed fourth in the famous Iron War between Mark Allen and Dave Scott a year later.

But the numbers tell only half the tale, as Glah reveals as the latest star of the sport to tell his story on the Thanyapura Legends of Triathlon podcast.

From humble beginnings, Glah explains how, having never swum, his first triathlon at Rhode Island in 1982 was a shock to the system. “It was an ocean swim at 17 degrees,” he recalls, “That’s pretty chilly for a skinny little runner.”

A fast learner though, he tells of how he turned professional straight out of university two years later and thought he had the sport cracked when on his first appearance in Hawaii he was storming through the field as he started the marathon.

“I was in ninth place at mile 12 and proceeded to implode at that point. I was as red as you could possibly be,” he reveals. ”Sunburnt and dehydrated, the run took half an hour longer than the bike did.”

IRONMAN’S MOST BIZARRE FINISH

Together with rookie errors, Glah remembers with fondness how training experiments led to mammoth training weeks of 600 miles on the bike, 70 miles on the run and 12 miles in the water, how he’d line up against the likes of Scott, Allen, Mike Pigg and Scott Molina over all distances, and how Nice was for a long time the premier event of triathlon.

He also looks back on his part in arguably the most bizarre finish in Ironman history, a neck-and-neck encounter where victory is snatched from him by a rival popping up from behind the crowd barriers.

There is an insight into the early days of professional tri teams, where his Foxcatcher squad, set up by the philanthropist John duPont, lived and trained on the grounds of a family estate with hundreds of other athletes from sports such as gymnastics and wrestling, before its erratic and fateful end.

Glah explains how he copes with his unavoidable diminishing athleticism, but how, as a true triathlon warrior, he’s still in his element on the Big Island, when everybody is “shaved, tapered and ready to go.”

On the turbo or on a training run, download and listen to the full Thanyapura Legends of Triathlon interview by visiting www.legendsoftriathlon.com or download the podcast via iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/nz/podcast/imtalks-legends-of-triathon/id484630310

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.

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Legends already interviewed include Mark Allen, Greg Welch, Mike Pigg, Scott Tinley, Erin Baker, Karen Smyers, Scott Molina, Simon Whitfield and Spencer Smith.