Chicago Mayoral Candidate’s Ironman Claims Scrutinized

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Paul Ryan Famously Claimed in a 2012 radio Interview that he ran a marathon in under 3 hours. “I had a two hour fifty something”. Runner’s World and others were unable to verify the claim. Eventually it was determined that Ryan had run one marathon and his time was 4:01:25 at the 1990 Grandma’s Marathon.

Some runners exaggerate their accomplishments, some may not remember their times, others flat out lie. Maybe Ryan misspoke, maybe he lied, thinking no one could or would check.

These days whenever someone in the public eye makes a claim of a personal best or completing a marathon, a triathlon, or any athletic event, someone will check.

Brett Kavanaugh ran The Boston Marathon. People asked me if he qualified legitimately. (Actually he ran with a charity bib).

Amara Enyia – Chicago Mayoral Candidate – Endorsed by Kanye and Chance The Rapper

Amara Enyia is running for Mayor of Chicago. She gained national attention when she was supported by Chance The Rapper and Kanye West. Chance The Rapper donated over $70,000 to her campaign, the amount needed to pay her debt to The Illinois Board of Elections.

Below is the first paragraph you see when you visit AmaraEnyia.com

Amaraenyia.com

“ironman competitor, marathoner.”

In reading through the many articles profiling her, nearly all mention her Ironman experience.

She speaks five languages and competes in Ironman triathlons. Her campaign has included running on neighborhood streets, joining would-be constituents in one- and three-mile jogs.  – The Guardian11/19/2018

She’s participated in two Ironman competitions—those superinsane triathlons where you swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run a marathon. ChicagoReader.com-5/21/2014

According to her Athlinks history, Amara completed one Marathon. She ran the 2008 Chicago Marathon, finishing in a time of 5:29:28.

Ironman Results

Amara has never completed an Ironman branded event. She has never completed a full 140.6 mile triathlon.

She completed The Rev3 Wisconsin Dells 70.3 Triathlon in 2012, finishing in a time of 8:13:36. She placed 114 out of 120 females.

She also completed two mini triathlons in 2010. The mini triathlons are much shorter events, consisting of 400m swin 6 mile cycle and a 2 mile run.

Based on these results the claims that she is an ‘ironman competitor’ is a stretch. Her last triathlons (the minis) were over 6 years ago. Her half Triathlon was over 8 years ago.

None of these were Ironman branded events, and none were the distance as reported in The Chicagoreader.com article during her first campaign for Mayor.

This could possibly being a case of someone just not knowing the difference. Like when someone claims they ran a ‘5k marathon’. However, with the statement being so prominent on her site, and referenced in many articles, the statement of being an “Ironman Competitor” is inaccurate and should be corrected.

I attempted to reach out to Amara and her campaign team multiple times over the past week. As I was getting ready to publish this article, I finally received a response.

“Amara did the Ironman Rev 3 in Wisconsin in 2011”

“Additionally to Wisconsin Rev 3, she ran in the Chicago marathon, Tough Mudder, and Illinois half marathon and numerous other races over the years.”

I pointed out to her representative that none of these events are Ironman branded, and none are the full Ironman distance.

The assumption when someone says they are an Ironman competitor is that they have completed races at the Ironman distance. I reached out to some triathletes for their thoughts. Some said they would expect that as a ‘competitor’ that, at the very least the triathlete would be competing for age group awards. Amara was more competitive at the Sprint distances, finishing The Chicago Triathlon 20th in her age group.

In regards to the article from her first campaign that mentioned the full Ironman distance, I do not know if they just made an assumption based on the statement that Amara is an “Ironman Competitor” or if they were specifically told that Amara completed the full Ironman distance.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. I think you are right to gently correct any inadvertent (sic) errors made by those in the public eye – particularly politicians – about their athletic prowess.
    A dozen (?) years ago one’s running skills may well not have mattered to your potential voters.
    However in this age of bucket lists that include marathons etc healthy living/ fitness has a ‘halo’ effect for a candidate.
    Well done helping to keep everyone honest!

  2. I don’t personally think “competitor” implies anything about prowess in the sport–if you sign up and race, you’re a competitor.

    I did find the “Ironman Rev3” comment hilarious–like saying “I ate a McDonald’s Wendy’s burger.”

    By completing a couple of 70.3s, whatever the finishing time, she certainly has a right to call herself a triathlete and even a long-course triathlete. She could also rightly claim, if she’d done an IM-branded 70.3 event, that she was an Ironman competitor (although the claim, though accurate, would be misleading). As you put it, since she did neither an IM-branded race nor a full 140.6-mile race, claiming to be an Ironman competitor is false.

    I’d like to believe this is simple case of someone on the margin of the sport simplifying or conflating–I mean, how many people in among the general public care at all about whether she is/was a triathlete or an Ironman competitor, so it’s hard to see how deliberately exaggerating that would provide anything but the most marginal benefit–but these days when everyone’s self-worth is based on internet “likes,” no one knows.

  3. Honestly, I give this a pass. For anyone outside the “Ironman Triathlon” bubble it’s not easy to understand that only one race director is allowed to call their race an Ironman. She did a half-iron distance race. Some will tell you that you need to finish sub 8 to count. I personally don’t care. I also don’t personally care if you do Rev3, Hits or Ironman … if you complete the distance call yourself whatever you want. Not all of my triathlete friends agree with that. Hopefully her staff is better with details regarding more important political things that can impact people’s lives but as for whether she can call herself an Ironman …. I really have no personal opinion.

    • Two things here, Amy, on why I wouldn’t be so flippant about giving this a pass.

      1) Many RDs can call their races “Ironman” races. There are at least 10 Ironman races in the US and 40+ worldwide. Some fringe people in the triathlon community only think that the Kona Ironman is the true “Ironman,” but that’s a very minor viewpoint and is not widely shared.
      2) I have done multiple half-iron distance triathlons (70.3) and would never call myself an Ironman. That term is reserved for athletes who have finished a 140.6 triathlon. Even though some of the 70.3 triathlons I have done have been Ironman 70.3 branded, I am still not an Ironman.

      I do agree, however, that it’s not about the brand of the race (Ironman, Rev3, etc.), but about the distance. If someone truly has done a 140.6 triathlon then I would call them an Ironman (or Ironwoman, or whatever they prefer).

      But it is disingenuous to claim to be an Ironman without ever completing the 140.6 distance. That should be properly corrected on this politician’s bio.

      I wonder why this politician decided to go with “Ironman” instead of “triathlete” when I think saying the latter is just as impressive on a politician’s bio. Why stretch the truth when the truth itself is impressive enough? Maybe that’s why she’s in politics.

    • She should get a pass if she changes her website to say “triathlete”. She doesn’t get a pass if she does not change it now that it has been brought to her attention.

      Most runners I know would not call themselves marathoners if they hadn’t run one in a few years or didn’t have one on the calendar. I used to quibble about the difference between runners and joggers, but I’ll gladly call you a fellow runner if you hit the streets or treadmill at least once a week.

      Honestly, the whole blurb under MEET AMARA is pretty weak. Leading with “problem-solver, advocate” is just awkward. She and her team might want to use this opportunity to refresh the whole pitch.

    • I agree with Amy. Even after reading this stuff, I don’t really know who can call themselves an Ironman. Does Dalian Wanda (is that the right name who owns Ironman?) own a trademark and what does it cover? If someone else duplicates the Ironman distance, can they refer to their race as “Ironman” or “ironman” or “ironman distance”? If someone finishes a half ironman distance under the auspices of Dalian Wanda, can they call themselves and Ironman? If I, a runner for 40 years, don’t know these details, why would a non-athlete volunteer campaign staffer in his or her 20s know? She should just change her bio to “triathlete” and everyone can move on. And let’s not even get into who can call themselves a “competitor” or is demoted to “participant.”

      • Here’s a simple, one question questionnaire for you:

        1) Have you finished an iron distance triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run for a total of 140.6 miles)?

        If you didn’t answer YES to the only question, then you aren’t an Ironman.

        It has absolutely nothing to do with the Ironman brand, WTC, the Wanda Group, etc. It has to do with the DISTANCE.

        I agree that she should just change her bio to read “triathlete” and move on. Digging in her heels to maintain a disingenuous description of herself simply because people may not know the difference is an odd stance to take.

        • Are you the Iron club gatekeeper, Art? Or the Definer of Terms? Unless people are really deep into the sport, these distinctions are lost on the public. I think Dalian Wanda and WTC would vigorously dispute your statement that finishing the iron distance makes you an Ironman, backed up by their trademarks and attorneys. However, I don’t care, and the candidate has reportedly changed her page to “triathlete,” so I’m moving on.

          • I’m not the gatekeeper or the definer of terms. I’m simply relaying well-known information. It doesn’t take more than a quick Google search or asking a triathlete to find out this information.

            Wanda and WTC do own the trademark IRONMAN, the MDot, etc. But even according to the Ironman wikipedia page:

            “In the triathlon community an Ironman is someone who has completed a race of the appropriate distance, whether or not it falls under the aegis of WTC.”

            So, it wasn’t my decision. It’s just a fact.

  4. Having completed a REV3 full-distance triathlon, I have an understanding of the confusion many non-triathletes may have with reference to Ironman. Ironman is merely a name brand of a triathlon. Ironman considers people who complete either their 140.6 or the 70.3 races to be Ironmen. There remains a significant argument on both sides as to if a person completing a 70.3 mile Ironman branded event should be considered an Ironman. The reality is that the term was used to designate the single individual who completed the annual 140.6 mile race in Hawaii. It was “watered down” a bit to permit anyone completing any of the Ironman branded races, to be called Ironman.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, the brand has become synonymous with the 140.6 mile race. So much so that the lines are blurred as to what it really means. Much the way Q-tip, Velcro, Aspirin and other branded items became so common as to be used to describe any cotton swabs, hook-and-loop fasteners, and acetylsalicylic acid, which almost lost their protection under the trademark and patent laws.

    That said, many who compete in 140.6 and 70.3 mile triathlons call themselves Ironmen, simply because it has become synonymous with triathlons of that distance, regardless of who is funding the event. Personally, I find Ironman branded events to be too expensive and prefer to throw my hard-earned money to more local races and companies who aren’t in it solely for the money.

  5. I’ve completed a tri but I’m not an Ironman. There’s a difference. I’d guess this gets chalked up to poor campaign marketing and lack of fact checking by the Chicago Reader. There is also the “telephone game” effect, where one source says something, it get misinterpreted by the next person, and before you know it the dog that looks like a wolf becomes a wolf.

    Misrepresenting yourself on your campaign website is probably a bad omen. Wouldn’t opposition research start there and dig in?

  6. this is more of an issue with her character rather than the race. Her completion of a 70.3 (barely under cut off time) and a couple super sprints years ago hardly qualifies her as an Ironman competitor. It shows poor character on her part to not only call herself that but it have it seem to be a corner stone of her campaign. It irks actual competitors and gives people who don’t follow the sport a false sense of her accomplishments.

    Having poor character should matter for someone who’s trying to be elected to a position of power.

  7. Not so outrageous in the grand scheme, but she’d be better billed as just a “triathlete.” I understand how the “Ironman” name has been TM’ed, like the NFL guards their “Super Bowl” name. At least she’s actually put hand to water / foot to pedal / toed the line to a legit 1/2 IM distance… unlike Ironfat R. Chastain.

  8. You do the full distance you are an Ironman. You do a half distance you are not I don’t care about the branding. The problem with this case is it isn’t an oversight, it is central to her image as it is in the first sentence.

    Also it is kind of weird to define yourself by something you did a few times many years ago, poorly. Makes me wonder how good she is at the other stuff.

  9. They changed her description on the website:

    “is a problem-solver, advocate, PhD, triathlete competitor, marathoner, daughter of activists, and defender of the public with a passion for public policy.”

    • Yes, as of this moment, her website says “triathlete competitor.” How verbose and awkward is that? I can’t imagine they will leave her description as it is. I don’t have a strong opinion on her personally or politically, but she needs to have a strong, concise description of herself and the current iteration is not it.

  10. Derek,
    What’s up with comments being deleted after posting? At least let the person know why. (Or did you just have more server issues this week?)
    Thanks

  11. There are also 70.3 IRONMAN races. By my own “common sense” definition an IRONMAN distance is a long distance (140.6), not a half long distance (70.3), and to me it doesn’t really matter if you did an IRONMAN branded distance or not (it’s a legal detail), but the IRONMAN brand itself adds to the confusion… What do the announcers shout at the finish line of a 70.3 IRONMAN? Also “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!”, “YOU ARE AN HALF IRONMAN!!!”, or just “cool, you finished, here take a beer?”.

    • Just get called a Finisher, with a name attached, no Ironman label.
      (Well, that was what I got on Sunday in Geelong)
      (And then the announcement of my 29min PB.)
      (And I can supply the Strava files, no course cutting here)

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