I’ve personally done three Ironman races (Rødekro 1994: 11:31:17, Rødekro 1996: 11:17:08, Fredericia European Championship 1997: 10:07:17), none of them WTC sanctioned, and I personally couldn’t care less. An Ironman is about going the distance, perhaps even racing it, but it is certainly not a matter of whatever random soulless corporation might happen to own the Ironman™ brand and organize races. So, regardless of whoever organize a race, as long as it’s approximately a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride and 42.2 km run it’s an Ironman race to me, and anyone who finish one is an Ironman.
Obviously all Ironman races aren’t created equal, Ironman Hawaii is the greatest of all, in many ways the spiritual home of our sport, but I’d be at least as proud finishing Embrun or Norseman Extreme Triathlon, both extremely challenging and beautiful non-WTC races.
I personally think that when you see triathlon as a cultural movement in sports—which is what I do—you realize that while it’s important to have corporate backing, sponsorship and all that, it is in the end those that participate out on the race course that define it, athletes, officials and spectators.
So, if the WTC has Ironman racing wrapped up, it’s only because we let them. In the end it’s up to everyone who cares to collectively define what does and what does not constitute an Ironman, trademarks be damned, culture is far more important.
So please, don’t be myopic and think Ironman Hawaii is the highest you can get, other organizations can do just as well, perhaps better.