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40 Stories – Jim MacLaren – 1989

IRONMAN is not about serving up excuses or highlighting limitations. It’s about ignoring the “why nots” and going for it regardless. The skeptics say don’t even try. Those who show up are there to prove them wrong. One of those was Jim MacLaren.

His life up until 1985 was pretty much like a lot of others around his age. Jim MacLaren pursued sports. He was promising as a football and lacrosse player. He graduated from the prestigious Yale School of Acting. At the time he was living in New York City. All things looked up…that is until a bus struck him on his motorcycle.

Jim MacLaren proving what is possible.

He was dead. Jim’s heart stopped. Amazingly he was brought back to life…minus the lower part of his left leg.

Jim MacLaren used the opportunity to reinvent himself. Over four painstaking years, he used his background in sports to build his body back up.

Eventually, in an extremely short period of time, he took on the impossible. He raced at the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona. In 1989 Jim crossed that amazing finish line. And he was not slow! Jim finished in just over 12-hours.

A few years later Jim MacLaren posted a time of 10:42 in Kona, which put him in the top 20% of all finishers. Again, remember, he did not have a lower left leg!

His journey to prove that Anything Is Possible is why he is one of the Top-40 Greatest Moments At IRONMAN.

Jim MacLaren had every excuse in the world why an IRONMAN would be impossible for him. He looked at why it could be possible and proved it right!

IRONMAN Hall of Fame journalist Bob Babbitt puts Jim’s journey in perspective by saying the following:

“Below knee amputee Jim MacLaren changed the perception of how fast a Challenged Athlete could go. He went 10:42 at the IRONMAN World Championship.”
“Challenged Athletes are competitors. When Jim finished in the top 20% of everyone in the race, the former 300 pound Yale football player proved once and for all that, even though he was missing a leg and was racing on a walking leg, he was there to kick ass and take names, just like everyone else.”
“The IRONMAN provided an opportunity to race and a level playing field for Jim and all those that followed his lead to be great. Jim MacLaren made history.”

Here is a look into all of who Jim MacLaren was and what he overcame in 1989 and in the years that followed through his journey at the IRONMAN World Championship:

There are a million excuses that no one would have questioned if Jim had been asked if he wanted to race at the IRONMAN and he said no. “I have a football player’s body. I lost my lower leg and can barely walk. How could I finish an IRONMAN?” The list is endless.

Jim MacLaren exemplified the spirit of IRONMAN. And that spirit, that dream, is to go beyond the ordinary to reveal the extraordinary within each of us. Thank you for living that example Jim!

To learn more about the Challenged Athletes Foundation inspired by Jim’s journey click HERE.

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All photos courtesy of Rich Cruse Photography who has captured so many of IRONMAN’s greatest moments.

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