Kurt Madden: The Real Life Ironman
By: Taylor Ford, Communications Manager at Mdrive
The year was 1978, the place was beautiful Honolulu, Hawaii. But this wasn’t a vacation. It was a gritty, self-inflicted pain-staking 12 hour test of sheer will. The result would do more than simply settle the debate of who was truly the fittest between swimmers, cyclists, and runners; the result was the first ever Ironman. What began as 15 guys settling a debate has transformed into a world-wide phenomenon of driven men and women bound together by their relentless pursuit of qualifying and crossing the surreal finish line that is Ironman Kona, The World Championships.
On October 12th, 2019, men and women from across the world will share in their pilgrimage to find comradery in completing what is widely considered the most difficult one-day sporting event in the world. 2.4-mile swim. 112-mile bike. 26.2-mile run. One of those Ironmen is Kurt Madden.
Kurt is a long time Mdrive Mbassador and quite frankly he is a legend within our office. Little did I know that Kurt is truly an icon and pioneer of the sport. I caught up with Kurt as he is celebrating 38 years of living the Ironman lifestyle and preparing to remain the #1 ranked Ironman in his age group at 64. My conversations with him are filled with inspiration and chills of motivation. His life, and sheer will to overcome adversities can and will resonate with anyone who lucky enough to encounter him. Conversations with Kurt are comparable to being captivated by a book you simply can’t put down. I decided The Driven could truly benefit from Kurt Madden’s life lessons, so consider this an introduction to Kurt as well as the beginning of a new series shining light on the iconic Ironman.
The mental toughness it takes to willingly endure 11-12 hours of complete mental and physical exhaustion is something special. Kurt says “Crossing the finish in Kona is in the top 5 most moving moments of my life. Right next to marrying my wife and having my kids.” Kurt’s drive and inner confidence was initially defined far before he knew what a triathlon was. As a child, mental toughness was not a requirement for sports, it was a requirement for survival. Kurt grew up in a broken home in the inner city. With 9 separate marriages between his divorced parents and a life-threatening arrhythmia in his heart, Kurt learned quickly that the only person he could rely on was the man in the mirror. He developed a street fighter mentality and feared nothing. “Mad Dog Madden,” as they called him, would later harness that fire within to become one of the world’s greatest endurance athletes.
The difference between winning and losing is often derived from the conversations we have within. I asked Kurt a simple but deeply philosophical question, “How do you succeed where others give up?”
“My Will. My Drive. Digging deep and going back to my experience in ultra-distance, I can put myself in that state of flow, activity seems enjoyable, engaging. I make it enjoyable rather than difficult. 11 hours seems to be condensed into a short amount of time. It’s positive self-talk and I break the races into small chunks. I commit not to quit.”
Kurt is wholeheartedly an authentic Mbassador for Mdrive wherever he goes. When asked “What Drives You?” he creatively tied his response into why he loves Mdrive. “I am driven by the quest to be engaged in constant improvement through long sequential steps. I am driven by finding that inner confidence, the lessons you learn about yourself. That’s what I love about Mdrive, you have intestinal fortitude, playing the long game, have integrity and continue to raise the bar. Mdrive is an integral part of my nutritional regiment. 90% of the time I am trying to put the very best things in my body and so I can do things that most people look at as impossible. “
To the man who has graced the box of Mdrive Elite for nearly our entire history, we couldn’t ask for a better storyteller of our brand and vision. We look forward to turning the tables and to have the opportunity to be your storyteller.
Like how you placed 7th overall in your first Ironman World Championships in 1980, or how you triumphantly tore the tape at the first ever Ultraman event in 1983 and again in 1985 (as if an Ironman wasn’t enough!) Or stories like the moral dilemma you faced while winning the 1995 USA Track and Field 24 Hour Championship. Not to mention the lessons you’ve learned being a world class athlete, husband, father, and CEO. And stories about today, like how at 64 you still return to Kona to fiercely defend your #1 age group ranking. You are the essence of drive, and Mdrive is thankful for you.
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