The goal is to join “The Club” – a select group of five people who have done every Ironman race in the world. Right now the list includes: Canadians John Wragg and Elizabeth Model, Mexico’s Luis Alvarez, American Jeffrey Jonas and Germany’s Holger Muller. Dougin and Jill Walker (pictured above with son Drew, left) might still be a few events short of adding their names to that exclusive list, but as they work towards the goal, they’re setting some impressive records of their own.
In 2019 they did six Ironmans on six continents in six months. Last year they did five Ironmans in four weeks, sneaking two in one weekend when they combined Ironman Kalmar and Ironman Copenhagen on successive days. Oh, and they managed to fit their wedding in during 2022, too.
“We got married on the bike course in Cozumel last year,” Jill says. “We stopped on the bike course for a half hour after the first loop, had the ceremony, then finished the race.”
This year it’s back to the six theme, but with a dramatically shorter time frame – six Ironman races on six continents in six weeks.
“I like really crazy challenges,” says 58-year-old Dougin. “I follow when all the Ironmans take place, so when I saw they all lined up on six continents, since it doesn’t happen very often I thought we needed to go for it.”
“It” would include the Ironman races in Lanzarote, Brazil, Hamburg, Philippines, Cairns (Australia) and Coeur d’Alene.
Coming from Tampa, Florida, it comes as no surprise that the pair point out that Ironman Lanzarote lived up to its billing as the world’s toughest Ironman. Dougin’s goal is to not only finish all the races, but to complete them in under 12 hours – he was 11:54:48 on the windy Canary Island. It was also the slowest time of the four they’ve done so far for Jill. Don’t think that the pair are just working through this goal to finish the race, either. Last weekend, in the pouring rain in the Philippines, both won their age groups.
Taking it all in
“She thinks it’s fun,” Dougin says of his wife’s approach to racing. “It’s no fun at all. It’s Type 2 fun. After I’m finished, it’s fun to be done. I like the planning – the before and the after.”
Jill doesn’t just enjoy the races, either.
“Wherever we go we pack in as much as we can do,” she says.
For this latest six-week jaunt, that’s included a trip to see Buckingham Palace and Big Ben in London, England during five hour layover, and this week two days of diving and an overnight stay on a boat on the Great Barrier Reef.
“We are at these beautiful places and we like to find things to do – we love the outdoorsy stuff,” Jill says, including her son Drew, 20, who has embarked on the trip. He’s not racing, but he’s having fun participating in activities that are part of the busy schedule.
67 Ironman races and counting
Jill leads the tally of completed Ironman races at 67, Dougin, who works for a money management company, is at 54. He has another impressive streak going, though. He’s done at least one triathlon every year since 1987. Until he met Jill 13 years ago, he’d only done one Ironman race – he got a spot for Kona in 2004 through the lottery.
“I’m one of the crazy people from a generation who saw Julie Moss cross the line in 1982 and said ‘I have to do that someday,’” he says. That was going to be Dougin’s only full-distance effort, “until I got hold of him,” Jill laughs.
While one would think that there would be a long break in the cards once the couple completed their sixth event in a row, but they’ll only be taking a couple of weeks off before heading back to Europe to add Ironman Vittoria-Gasteiz to their completed list.
They’ll also be taking some time off of Ironman racing in August and will be doing Paris-Brest-Paris, the world’s oldest cycling event in August. To add yet another feat to an already busy year full of them, Jill will complete another interesting quadruple finish. Earlier this year she did her 11th-straight Boston Marathon (the world’s oldest marathon). She’s qualified for Kona, so she’ll be doing the world’s oldest Ironman in October. Cycling is covered with Paris-Brest-Paris. Wondering where the oldest swim event in the world is? Jill’s got that one covered too -after Paris-Brest-Paris she’ll swim from one continent to another (Europe to Asia) during the 4.5 km Hellespont swim in Turkey.
Even after a four weekends in a row of Ironman racing, Jill is still having a blast.
“I enjoy the whole day,” she says. “When I cross the finish line I get post-Ironman depression for two days, but then I get excited for the next one. It’s kind of a sickness.”
“I’d take the ‘kind of’ out of there,” says Dougin.
It’s hardly a sickness, but it is impressive. The Walker’s are putting together a year like no other we’ve seen in Ironman racing.