full day at work, and after the dinner table is cleared, most people put their
feet up. Gordon Haller puts his into running shoes. Not many athletes work out
at 10 p.m., but Gordon isn’t like everybody else. He’s an Ironman, and he has been since he won the
first competition in Hawaii in 1978.
Not only did Gordon win; he also
helped create the event. He was running the Honolulu Marathon
in 1977 and realized his body hadn’t fully recovered from a recent race, so he
stopped running where a friend happened to be watching. That friend knew of
Gordon’s typical three-part workout routine, and he told him about plans for a
new sporting event.
“He said there was a race invented
for me with swimming, biking and running. Then I saw a notice in the paper about
a meeting to talk about the race. I joined the planning team, and we took the Waikiki Roughwater Swim,
the Sea Spree Festival bike race and the Honolulu Marathon and put them
together,” Gordon said. The Ironman was born.
always lived an Ironman lifestyle,” Gordon explained. He’s kept a training log
since 1969 and four decades later, he still works out an average of 1.5 hours a
“At first, my training log was a tool
to help me be faster and healthier, but it evolved to become a journal. It’s
satisfying to record each workout, and it helps me remember where I was when
significant things happened in my life,” Gordon said, adding that a training
log can help track what you eat, how much you sleep, your heart rate, weight,
illnesses, body fat, blood pressure and more.
As a result of his lifelong focus on
fitness, Gordon feels he has more energy and endurance than most people, which
he says helps him at work. He balances his athletic pursuits with
his full-time job as a programmer analyst at the Walmart corporate office in
“I design my workouts to maximize my
performance, and I plan my tasks to do the same for my work,” Gordon said. “When
I start on something, I see it to the finish.” That explains why he’s still
participating in marathons and Ironman events more than 37 years after he
earned the first Ironman title. In fact, he often does two Ironman competitions
a year, inspiring others with his seemingly endless stamina.
“I consider marathons a time to do soul searching. I know
what I’m made of and I just keep going. If you think you might not make it, you
might not,” Gordon said. “It
is interesting to me to see how I’ll cope with whatever comes up. We can have
high winds, rain, humidity, heat, tacks on the road, hills, rough or cold
water. It’s fun to meet other competitors and hear their stories. It’s just an
amazing experience every time I do it.”
Recently featured in Sports Illustrated, Gordon represents athleticism at its
finest. He discovered his love of running in the first grade and has been
setting the pace ever since.
“Our teacher didn’t hear the recess
bell, and none of us was brave enough to tell her. She let us run around the
school one lap, so we made a race of it and I was second. My friend beat me,
and that got my competitive juices up,” Gordon recalled. He fully realized his
abilities six years later.
“One day in seventh-grade PE, we had
to run three laps for leaving towels out in the locker room. My friend ran
ahead, but after a lap, I decided he wouldn’t finish first and I just edged him
at the finish line. I joined the track team and discovered I could run longer
than everyone else, even if I couldn’t run faster in the sprints,” Gordon said.
competitive spirit runs in Gordon’s family, along with a shared passion for
health. He met his wife, Beth, through running and they work out often
together. She’s a triathlete, herself. Gordon says his son Ryan “rides his bike
everywhere” and his daughter, Jessica, manages a sporting goods store and loves
outdoor activities. Gordon’s older daughter, Kristen, is a yoga instructor. Clearly,
Gordon has a way of positively influencing those around him – including his
fellow Walmart associates.
“I encourage them to do triathlons, run races, just get out
and do something,” Gordon said, adding that he shuns the elevator at work and coaxes
others to do the same.
“I rode it today for the first time in about five years and only because I was with a group of people,” he said.
Gordon’s been taking the stairs to his office at Walmart for
eight years, and he says he still enjoys the challenge of learning new
technology through his work. The love of a challenge appears to run in his
veins, which you might expect from someone best known as the world’s first
Ironman World Championship will take place in Kailua-Kona,
Hawaii, on Oct. 10. Read more about Gordon Haller in these recent articles from
Sports Illustrated and ESPN.