Lessons of Iron War: The Competition Effect

The duel between triathlon legends Dave Scott and Mark Allen at the 1989 Ironman® World Championship is remembered as one of the greatest races in the history of endurance sports. In that race the longtime rivals swam, biked, and ran neck and neck for eight full hours until, with 1.7 miles left in the 140.6-mile competition, Allen broke away from Scott on the last hill to claim his first Ironman victory after six failures and five losses to Scott.

The battle caused so much excitement as it unfolded that a caravan of trucks, cars, motorcycles, mopeds, and bikes that was almost a quarter-mile in length formed behind Scott and Allen as the rivals scorched the marathon side by side. Among those in the caravan was Bob Babbitt, the 38-year-old publisher of Competitor magazine, who dubbed the epic battle “Iron War” in the next issue of his publication. The name stuck.

Research in exercise science has demonstrated that human beings are able to perform at a significantly higher level in sports activities when in group situations than they can when alone. For example, in a study conducted at Arizona State University, subjects were able to lift 11 percent more weight when they conducted a maximal weightlifting test in a competitive group situation than when they were asked to perform the same test without company.

Read the full article “Lessons of Iron War: The Competition Effect” on Triathlete magazine’s website.

For more on the race, read Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen & the Greatest Race Ever Run by Matt Fitzgerald.

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