Mark Allen has already written his place into triathlon history with those six Kona titles and much more. On Sunday in Nice, Jan Frodeno will script the final chapter to his own glittering career. Ahead of that ‘last dance’, Mark has a message for Jan.
All good things must come to an end. And as they do, there is always the opportunity to look back over the scope and scale of what took place one day at a time over decades. It’s how life is assembled.
Yes, there are many singular defining moments we can all point to that represent our best. But those signposts in our life are just the last jewel being put in place on a foundation that takes endless hours of work and struggle and reshaping of who we are as people to make.
Your career is one of those crown jewels. It isn’t defined by one race. It can’t be explained by one record. It spans decades and can’t even come close to be summed up in one sitting.
Racing on a different plane
Where does one begin a “Frodo’s Greatest Moments” conversation? A Gold Medal earned in the 2008 Beijing Olympics is where most would launch into it!
But I want to go somewhere different. Ten years after that gold in 2018 I saw you race in person for the first time. It was at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship at Nelson Mandela Bay in South Africa. So many short-course athletes were making the move up to longer distances at that time including Alistair Brownlee and Javier Gomez. You know both of those boys quite well!
You outclassed them all though. And why this race has such significance for me is what I saw in you on the run. It was so much more than self-confidence. It was an energy you embodied that made you unbeatable and untouchable.
Every now and then I see this in an athlete. It’s like they are plugged into an electric socket that puts them on a completely different plane from every other competitor. It’s rare. And it doesn’t happen every time, even for those who have been graced with that invincibility.
You had it that day. There was you, superhuman like an unstoppable freight train, and the rest, mere mortals struggling through pain and fatigue coming up way short of what you put out that day.
I witnessed Jan Frodeno invincibility again in 2019 at the IRONMAN World Championship. The two previous years were not yours. But this year, you were once again in that untouchable zone. I saw it before the race and said to a few of my closest: “He’s unbeatable this year. I’ve checked him out and have tried to figure out how I would be beat him if I was racing, and he’s unbeatable. He’s like a killer whale that’s going to just toy with the boys out there”.
And that is what you did. It was more than revenge for the two previous years. It was you showing the world once again what you are capable of when you tap into the Jan Frodeno secret energy source.
Fast forward to Milwaukee just a few short weeks ago at the PTO US Open. A third decade where you are besting the best. Yes, there were moments of vulnerability where it looked like you were going to fall off the pace on the bike. But what did you do? You closed the gaps back up…every time! Never count Jan Frodeno out. Then with masterclass precision, you put together a run that found you once again on the top of the podium at nearly 42 years of age, beating several generations of athletes in the process.
Honouring the race, and the sport
But without a doubt, one of the defining moments that speaks volumes for who you are came at the Ironman World Championship in 2017. Easily in shape to be the champion, back spasms forced your run to become a walk. You could have pulled the plug and stopped. But you honoured the race that defines the sport by completing the marathon with many miles of walking in 35th place.
Going to depths like that can either break an athlete or give them currency with which they can handle fear and disappointment that is impossible to gain any other way. You chose the currency, and because of that your career is the highest expression of greatness. And the greatness that you carry is not expressed by what you’ve achieved, but rather by what you have done to overcome and rise up, no matter the place or the time or the distance between events.
You’ve one more chapter to write this coming Sunday in Nice, France. I can think of no better way to close out your racing career. The last line-up at the start line is one that carries both a weight and a freedom that no other race in one’s career does.
And no matter how the day ends for you, know that your legacy and impact has set a standard that has helped the entire sport rise up. Your presence at future start lines will be missed greatly. But as the years come to pass, it will only give us all more and more time to absorb and admire what you have done for us all.
Race well my friend!