Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series, (No. 41, 2017/03)
This column is about my long-time friend, Dan Honig, the founder and long-time President of the New York Triathlon Club. I first met Dan at the second triathlon I ever did, the East Coast Championships at Barnegat Light/Long Beach Island, N.J., in October 1983. I was already into “finishing happily and healthily,” in a race that was at distances that approximated today’s Olympic-distance racing like my very first, the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon at Sag Harbor, N.Y. And so, after finishing, I walked into a little cabin with a couple of information tables. Dan was sitting at one with a sign reading something similar to “Big Apple Triathlon Club — Join Here.” Being an inveterate joiner, and after only two races already being truly in love with the sport — the second sport I ever tried that I could actually do (the first being downhill skiing) — I signed up. And that led to a friendship that will turn 35 when my season starts this year.
Dan has been the heart and soul of multisport racing in the New York City Metropolitan Area since those very early days, running many races of his own and being race director for many others run by various local organizations. Over the years, I have done about 130 of Dan’s races, just slightly more than half of my total number (250 at the end of the 2016 season). While he ran both duathlons (he persisted in calling them biathlons into the 2011 season) and triathlons, his specialty was the biathlon/duathlon. Although neither of us is absolutely certain, it may have been Dan who invented the biathlon back in 1984. Certainly, my third race overall was a biathlon that Dan put in at the old Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, N.Y., in May 1984, in the rain. While I haven’t raced in the rain for a long time for safety reasons, back then I loved it.
Dan had originally organized the BATC back in 1983, running triathlons for a four-month summer season. His original idea for the three-segment two-event biathlon was to be able to extend the multisport racing season in the New York Metropolitan area, starting earlier in the season and finishing later. He quickly saw that for many athletes, however, he had developed an alternative multisport race that could be done throughout the season. Indeed, duathlon has been on USA Triathlon’s championship racing schedule for many years now. As well, it has been on the International Triathlon Union’s world championship racing schedule for many years, too, as the sport has spread all around the world.
Actually, back in the 1986 and 1987 USAT’s predecessor, Triathlon Federation USA, held official Biathlon National Championships, directed by Dan, in New York City's Central Park. In that era of open entry races, the big names came in for them. Yes, because Dan was there in those very early days of getting multisport racing going for the big-time, I actually got to race on the same course as Mark Allen and Kenny Souza.
At the same time, Dan always recognized everyone who was in his races, regardless of their speed. In his races the courses never close until the last racer comes across the line (and now more often than not that’s me). Back in 1990, I did the Empire State Biathlon in Harriman State Park (N.Y.), a 6-mile run/50-mile bike/6-mile run event, with a brutal 4-mile hill on each of the three loops of the bike. Even back then, I was twice the age of the next oldest competitor. I finished 2 hours behind the next racer in front of me. But as I came down the lane toward the finish, the arch was still up and the clock was still running. That’s the way Dan Honig runs races.
Dan, you were Mr. Multisport Racing in New York City and up the Hudson Valley for so many years. When one came to one of your races, one knew that everything would be right, from the organization of the transition area, to the provision for lifeguards for the swims (no matter how short) and medical/ambulance personnel on hand, to the markings on the course, to the presence of volunteers and police officers where they should be at the turns, through the awards ceremony, to the post-race food. Above all, one knew that the race was going to be run as safely as possible.
Dan, I hope that you have been having fun with your new paddleboard venture in Florida, where you now spend your winters. We all look forward to seeing you this Spring at March Madness, the duathlon in Central Park that always opens the season (this year on April 2). Among other things, we also look forward to hearing what that new paddle-board/run race, called a biathlon, that you came across while driving through North Carolina, is like.
This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, "101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes" (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
Steve’s most recent multisport book is "Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It" (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
His first book on multisport racing, "Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®" 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Dr. Jonas recently was featured in World Class Magazine. Click here to read the article.