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40 Stories – Dave Scott – 1980

In the third edition of the IRONMAN World Championship a newcomer served notice that this event was to be more than just survived. It was to be raced.

Dave Scott showed up on Oahu in February of 1980 and set the tone and the stage for what he would continually do. He would break records and win races. There was no question asked more of him than how did he go so fast! In his inaugural IRONMAN Dave Scott broke the previous record by 1:51. That’s not a minute and fifty-seconds. He annihilated the old mark set by Tom Warren by an hour and fifty-one minutes!

Tom Warren’s 1979 victory set the bar at 11:15:56. One year later in 1980 Scott posted a blistering 9:24:33. There would never be a winning time for the men in the 10-hour range. Dave skipped right over that giant chunk of time and made it look easy in the process! And that is what makes Scott’s 1980 race one of the Top-40 Greatest Moments at IRONMAN.

Dave Scott explains what made him tick from day one at the IRONMAN:

“I was going there to Oahu to race the IRONMAN, not just survive it. And I figured if I run out gas I run out of gas!
“I had some experience that helped, though. I’d been to Oahu and raced the Waikiki Rough Water swim a number of times. I’d won that a few times so I knew that at least the first leg would be fairly easy for me to get a good pace going. And indeed the swim did end up feeling pretty easy.”

Dave swam a 51:00. Eventual second place finisher Chuck Newmann exited the water in 1:02:00. And the guy who would win the IRONMAN its first year on The Big Island in 1981, super cyclist John Howard, would take an eternal 1:51:00 before he got to his bike and clawed his way back into 3rd place by the finish.

Yes, Dave Scott created a sport signature that was uniquely his. And he did it his way!

“I figured that I was in the lead so why do anything other than just get going as fast as I could and hold it as long as I could. I’m not sure many others had that kind of mindset, but that was mine! And contrary to what just about everyone today is doing, I never raced with a watch or a speedometer, or anything that would give me numbers feedback. I just went on feel.”

Knowing your body is an art. Being able to sense pace and to see your potential beyond anything that has ever been done before is what elevates the game for everyone else who follows.

Dave Scott was at the pinnacle of this skill. He grasped the vision of speed that no one else was even close to dreaming of.

After his first win in 1980, in typical Dave Scott fashion, he gave his assessment of where his 9:24:33 was in the grand picture of IRONMAN. He simply said:

“I can go a lot faster than that.”

Scott would win five of the next six IRONMAN World Championships he raced, losing only once in February 1982 to Scott Tinley. In Dave’s six titles he would break the world record an amazing 5-times. In 1986 he lowered the standard to 8:28:37 to post his fastest victory ever. Of course he would go even faster than that mark in 1989, but that’s a story for another day!

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NOTE: This is only one of two top 40 posts that I was personally not witness to or part of. But I felt it more than deserving to be highlighted. The other is Scott Tinley’s victory in 1985.

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