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Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen, & the Greatest Race Ever Run

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,953 ratings  ·  130 reviews
The 1989 Ironman® World Championship was the greatest race ever. In a spectacular duel that become known as the Iron War, the world's two strongest athletes raced side by side at world-record pace for a grueling 139 miles.

Driven by one of the fiercest rivalries in triathlon, Dave Scott and Mark Allen raced shoulder to shoulder through the Ironman 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile b
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by Velo Press (first published September 28th 2011)
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Average rating 4.32  · 
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 ·  1,953 ratings  ·  130 reviews

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Otis Chandler
Inspiring book about one of the greatest ironman races, by two of its greatest champions. I found this very helpful to better understand the sport, and the mindsets of some of its champions.

And to get it out of the way, yes I knew that Dave Scott and Mark Allen had jointly posted a letter objecting that the book was inaccurate, and shouldn't be published. While this is not uncommon in publishing, it did make me read some of the characterizations of them with an open mind. For instance, he stron
Leslie Doll
Jun 13, 2012 rated it liked it
I started reading this book without being aware of the letter Dave Scott and Mark Allen wrote, protesting the book. I read it anyway; I generally don't allow peer pressure to sway my decision as to whether or not to read a book. Isn't reading a study in critical thinking? Anyway, I digress. I enjoyed some parts of the book more than others; especially for its insights on mental toughness and training. But I had mixed feelings, especially regarding the author and his comments about the Hoyt racin ...more
Amar Pai
Oct 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This WAS a pretty epic race! Well told. Interesting digressions on how you can scientifically measure who can run through suffering the most. Average person quits when their mind says "you're exhausted." Iron-persons run way past that till their muscles are literally incapable of continuing. You can tell the difference by measuring "control entropy" which is how spastic their gait is. If truly spent w muscles giving out, gait becomes counter intuitively MORE regular (think when you get a cramp a ...more
Steve Van Slyke
Apr 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Seekers of Inspiration
Recommended to Steve by: Paco
Shelves: sports
A fascinating story about two endurance athletes with very different backgrounds, personalities, habits, attitudes, and training methods, who nevertheless end up winning the Iron Man competition six times apiece and beating each other in the process.

It's a very human story. The warts and imperfections are neither glossed over nor omitted.

I agree with the author's conclusion: you cannot read a book, study the the training methods of the experts and replicate them and one day expect to find yourse
Ryan Azzi
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Immerse yourself in the minds of the greatest triathletes of all time

An amateur endurance athlete myself. After reading this exhilarating account, I have committed to participating in the Nice Ironman 2020. Maybe along this journey I will manage to garner enough qualifying points to find myself at the Kona starting line the year after. Now that is the kind of effect this book can have on you if you had dabbled or even had a remote interest in endurance sport. Read at your own expense. Don’t say
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Given the subject matter, this could have been an excellent book. Unfortunately, the author's writing style includes so many awkward, cliched phrases and wacky sports metaphors that the story of this epic race is reduced to a confusing tale of two flawed characters. The author indicates that he is a fan of both Dave Scott and Mark Allen in the epilogue and acknowledgments, but here's what they had to say after reading the pre-pub copy:

An Open Letter From Dave Scott and Mark Allen

Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book on the historic Ironman race between Mark Allen & Dave Scott in Kona. Unlike most race stories, this one has a pattern of a few chapters about the athletes followed by a chapter on the science of racing and suffering. Both are interesting, but the race story was more compelling for me. Still, it was a unique way to tell the story. This book has generated some controversy but I personally think both Dave Scott & Mark Allen look very good throughout the story.
Tony Arreola
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book with a lot of endurance insight.
The book details an amazing race with two of the greatest athletes in our generation. The book drags a bit, but the information is quite powerful.
A must read for any endurance athlete, and all triatheletes.
Bea Elwood
Nov 25, 2020 rated it liked it
By the end I felt like I had just done a feat of endurance myself, having to really push myself through the last 100 pages but then I realized I had read the whole book in three days. Interesting page in history and worth the read although I couldn't actually tell Mark Allen and Dave apart half the time and probably confused the other half-dozen racers with them too. I do remember watching Julie Moss cross the finish line practically on her hands and knees and have been moved to tears by her det ...more
Ethan W
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I didn't know anything about these guys, or the Iron man, but after reading this book, I want to some day compete in one. The first part of the book is great biography-type writing about Dave and Mark and how they came to meet at the Ironman. The second half is about the race itself, written to make you feel like you're there, it was hard to put down ...more
Aug 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
Horrible. I loved Secret Race (about doping in the cycling world) and I hoped this book would be fascinating too. It was horrible. It was filled with fluffy, repetitive text. He really didn't need 336 pages. 10 would do. I couldn't finish it. To make things worse, I listened to this book on Audible. The narrator sounded like a really bad jr high actor --- forced, over-acted, and unnatural.

Avoid this book. Read Secret Race instead.
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
A decent attempt to explain a virtually unbelievable race.
Algirdas Purkenas
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible
The greatest triathlon battle of all times - this book has a nice lead up to it and serves really well with the description of the actual race.

Also some nice scientific insights into endurance athlete research, touches upon perseverance, anatomy, studies and other interesting topics.

However, one should not forget that this is a book about the actual race that actually happened. I do not understand how the author thought it would be a good idea to simply come up with things like what Mark or Dave
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thrilling and inspiring, though at times repetitive, annoying and heavy with mundane trivia and details that take away from the story. The epilogue ends on a down note as well, though made me think. Although I disagree with the author’s conclusions, his “erroneous” take-aways made me ponder the lives and events recounted in his book. The author pits the two characters against each other as born vs made competitors. Although simplistic, it helps the narrative. The book feels desktop researched on ...more
Nov 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
The premise of this book is that the greatest race ever - not just triathlon race, but any kind of race - was an Ironman competition in the late 80s between Dave Scott and Mark Allen. I enjoy Fitzgerald's books as much as any author who writes about running, so despite my skepticism that any Ironman race could possibly be the greatest race ever, I gave the book a shot. In general, I am not particularly interested in Ironman competitions. However, I must say that Fitzgerald did an excellent job b ...more
Jeff Goodfellow
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Very disappointing. Was expecting an epic story on the "world's greatest race" and it fell well short. Was hoping to read a great sports story and it got way off course. Chapter 7 brings the flow of the story to a complete halt. The race is over two thirds of the way through the book. I'm a runner and the author got a number of things wrong with regards to running, so I can only guess he got other things wrong for the other two disciplines.

Because I'm such a big sports fan, I gave the book 2 sta
Nov 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Their will to win is undeniable, their feats are commendable, and yet, I just couldn't identify with either of them or get emotionally invested in what they were trying to accomplish. I think that, in order to compete in Ironman at their level, you have to be selfish, asking others to make your goals theirs and to give you all the credit and them none. This resounded throughout the book and I just couldn't get past it. They are amazing athletes, physically and even more so mentally, but this jus ...more
Peter Yock
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it
This was pretty entertaining but after hearing some interviews with Dave Scott and Mark Allen it sounds like it's largely fictional and conjecture on behalf of the author. Still, kinda entertaining, with a little bit of truth splashed in.

I have to say though - this is single-handedly the WORST audio book reading I've ever heard. It's like the whole thing was read by the comic book guy out of the Simpsons. So over dramatised. I had to work hard to not just delete the book on the basis of bad read
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating account of the early years of triathlon and two of the greatest athletes in the sport. Allen and Scott were very different people with very different approaches to training. And both were a little nuts. But they shaped the world of triathlon and helped make it popular, especially Scott, arguably the first person to really race an Ironman, as opposed to just trying to survive to the finish line. I found plenty of inspiration in this, even though I'm about as amateur as a tri ...more
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Thrillingly inspirational! You can almost hear their breaths and feel their pain. Matt Fitzgerald has tried to capture the solution to the question of why human beings are willing to suffer. Does enduring inhuman pain create a sense of achievement? What makes triathletes tick? What makes the best of them hang on when their bodies are on the verge of collapse? To anyone interested in endurance sports, this is an excellent motivational read.
Danny Schiff
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Iron War made for an exciting read about a grueling rivalry as the Ironman triathlon developed and gained notoriety in the early 80's. I enjoyed reading about Dave Scott and Mark Allen's different approaches to the training and racing, all leading to the 1989 showdown on the Ironman World Championships on the Big Island. A compelling read for any fan of endurance racing, especially interesting as they were still figuring out optimal nutrition, gear, and clothing at the time. ...more
David Wilusz
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fantastic description of the 1989 Kona Ironman, which featured an ultra-intense rivalry between two of the sport's greatest ever: Dave Scott and Mark Allen, who were shoulder-to-shoulder for virtually the entire race. Particularly interesting was just how different the two men were/are, with vastly different approaches to training and life. Highly inspirational reading for anyone interested in endurance sports or human performance generally. ...more
Kevin Grigg
Jan 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t read a lot of true stories(accounts), but really enjoyed this. The amazing central characters Dave Scott and Mark Allen, and their continued struggle to win the Iron man, had me gripped. I also learnt a lot of the science behind extreme exercise and success.
The main Iron man this is based around was gripping and amazing .
A good read for anyone but a great read for people who love sport and competing.
Ananya Gupta
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An exceptionally well written book on the rivalry of two greats at Ironman. What caught my attention and kept it on full swing till the end was the almost live commentery style of writing. One could almost feel the pulse, sweat and exhaustion of Mark Allen and Dave Scott. An absolute pleasure to read and not just for sports fans.
Jonathan Penn
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Super interesting with insightful observations about what makes an endurance athlete great.

Side message: It’s scary to see the affect that obsessing in one area of your life can have on the other areas of your life. I’d rather be a decent runner with a good marriage instead of an amazing runner without my marriage.
Caitlin Foisy
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great account of the best race ever run, interspersed with exercise physiology with respect to just "how" these men were physically and me tally capable of performing such feats. an informative and inspirational read. it has re-kindled my love for triathlon! ...more
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Beautifully written and recounted. You feel like you're right there in the middle of the 1989 Iron War. Every triathlete or endurance junkie should read this book. Inspiring.
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this having completed Ironman UK this year but not knowing much of the history of the event or this race in particular.

Superb page turner. A must for anyone with an interest in the subject matter or super human sporting achievement in general.
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredible story, incredible men and an amazing race.

So much to take away, from a sport who's winner is the person who is capable of suffering the most.

Great lessons on mental toughness.

Lessons learnt:
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Awesome history of the Ironman races. Great read.
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Matt Fitzgerald is the author of numerous books on sports history and endurance sports. He has enjoyed unprecedented access to professional endurance athletes over the course of his career. His best-sellers include Racing Weight and Brain Training for Runners. He has also written extensively for Triathlete, Men's Fitness, Men's Health, Outside, Runner's World, Bicycling, Competitor, and countless ...more

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Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
73 likes · 11 comments
“The magnitude of the satisfaction that a triathlete experiences upon crossing a finish line is directly proportional to the amount of suffering he has overcome to to get there. This reward knows no ability. Even the slowest of the slow can push themselves beyond existing limits and finish with tremendous satisfaction. But winning often demands and inspires the greatest suffering and thus confers the greatest sense of pride. Often, because of the nature of competition, it is precisely he who has the most guts who is the fastest and experiences the most intense fulfillment at the finish line.

Theoretically, then, the most deeply satisfying experience a triathlete could have in the sport (and among the best in life) would occur at the finish line of a race in which he has overcome as much suffering as he could possibly ever endure, and knows it.”
“Mindless performance may be especially helpful in endurance sports because of the supreme importance of the capacity to suffer. The more science and technical detail an athlete incorporates into the training process, the more distracted he becomes from the only thing that really matters: getting out the door and going hard.” 1 likes
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