PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Ordinary people doing extraordinary things is one of the things that makes sports so compelling.
The case could be made that the 2,500 competitors who competed in Saturday's IRONMAN Florida are not ordinary people, but their mission to complete the triathlon is among the most grueling in the world.
2.4 miles swimming in the Gulf, 112 miles riding up and down Highways 20, 77 and 79, and a marathon (26.2 miles) on foot turned into a three man duel to the finish.
British pro Joe Skipper trailed Illinois' native and 2012 IRONMAN Florida champion Andrew Starykowicz by nine minutes upon the transition to foot, but soon made up ground and took the race lead. American Ben Hoffman was hot on his heels, setting a new course record with a running time of 2:36:09, but Skipper held firm to win with an overall course record time of 7:46:28.
Skipper's victory is his second IRONMAN triumph, but edging a fellow professional to the line by two minutes and coming from behind is as difficult and exciting as it gets.
"It was so hard! I didn't want to look behind," Skipper recalled. "I knew if [Hoffman] was there he would have known that I was dying and that's the worst sign you can do. That's my best ever marathon and it's one my fastest ever bikes, so he pushed me to another level Ben did. I'm ecstatic to win and he took my performance up another level today."
Hoffman finished second three weeks after a fourth placed finish at the prestigious Kona IRONMAN World Championship. Both Skipper and Hoffman qualify for Kona in 2020 with their performances Saturday.
Jacqui Guiliano of Cary, Illinois was the first female finisher with a time of 9:21:17.
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