WASHINGTON (AFNS) —
It took 10 years and six races, but Maj. Gen. David Smith, director of Air Force Reserve Plans, Programs and Requirements here, finally made it to the Ironman World Championship race in Kona, Hawaii, earlier this month.
Triathlons are grueling competitions comprising a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run, and only 6% of Ironmen participants worldwide qualify for the World Championships. Smith qualified for the 2021 Ironman World Championship by coming in third place in his age group in the 2020 Ironman Florida race. However, the championship race in 2021 was cancelled due to COVID, so his entry was delayed until this year.
Smith began running in high school, but it wasn’t until an assignment at U.S. Northern Command that he was introduced to Ironman races by a Canadian Armed Forces coworker.
“I was doing shift work at the time, and my friend and I talked about doing some training together,” Smith said. “He was a professional athlete and I asked him if he thought I could do a full-distance race, and he said absolutely. We started training together, and that’s when I did my first half Ironman around 2010. Then I ran a full Ironman in 2012, and the rest you could say is history.”
But this story isn’t just about finishing a race. While only 0.00006% of the world population makes it to the Ironman World Championship, Smith firmly believes that what makes those who make it successful is the same thing the Air Force advocates for making better leaders: resilience, dedication, time management and goal setting.
“I believe that athletics and a routine actually contribute to good leadership,” Smith said. “I believe the achievements I’ve accomplished throughout my Air Force career are because I was involved in Ironman. High-performing individuals, whether in fitness or sport, are also high performing individuals in their daily lives, whether that be their work or their leadership or their personal lives. It will contribute to your mental wellness and physical fitness and will make you a better leader, no matter where you are in life.”
The general said his goal is to inspire one Airman or Guardian to make fitness a part of his or her life. “I’ll be 54 in November, and if a 54-year-old officer can do an Ironman event, guess what, our 20-, 30- and 40-year-old Airmen and Guardians …….