Welcome to Edition 8 of Bob Babbitt’s Endurance World Newsletter.
The year was 1991 and the location was a nighttime 10K in downtown San Diego. What I liked best about putting together each edition of Competitor Magazine was to actually take our hot-off-the-press publication to the races and hand them out. My goal was to personally hand out 3,000 magazines each and every month at events. It was the ultimate focus group. I loved running the races, meeting our readers, finding potential stories and getting feedback on what people liked and didn’t like about the magazine.
Even though I left Competitor in 2014, I will always treasure the brand that I am proud to have created and nurtured with my partner Lois Schwartz.
I have kept copies of every issue we produced, from our first issue in June of 1987, through 2012. In my mind, being a hoarder is a good thing because taking a minute to leaf through any issue brings back amazing memories. The great part about that era was getting to grow our magazine and our sports while also getting to cover the careers of Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Scott Tinley, Scott Molina, Paula Newby–Fraser, and so many of the legends of endurance sports.
So what are my top 11 Competitor Magazine covers of all time? I am so glad you asked!
England’s Spencer Smith was a two-time ITU World Champion (1993 and 1994) whose body type, personality, and sense of style set him apart from the other professional triathletes he raced against. What made him great was his ability to simply dig deep and hurt more than the other guy. This particular image of Spencer outkicking 1994 Ironman World Champion Greg Welch, one of the best runners in the sport, speaks volumes about his toughness.
I recently chatted with Spencer about his career, his amazing dad Bill, and how his rivalry with Simon Lessing pushed him out the door every day.
10: Jim Knaub was an Olympic Trials pole vaulter before he was paralyzed while on his motorcycle. He became a top wheelchair athlete and won the Boston Marathon five times in his racing chair. Jim changed the perception of what people could accomplish in a chair and he wasn’t shy about telling the world that wheelers were athletes. More importantly, he was the guy going to rehab centers to show paralyzed patients that there was life after tragedy, that while their lives might be different, they didn’t have to be worse.
The year was 1988. I thought Jim’s story was remarkable. When we put Jim Knaub on the cover of the magazine I had no idea that we were the first mainstream publication to showcase a wheelchair athlete on its cover. I guess that was foreshadowing of things to come.
Listen to my interview with the great Jim Knaub on Babbittville Radio here.
9: He had both legs amputated above the knee when he was six years old. He was told that he would never walk without a walker and that no double above knee amputee on prosthetic legs would ever run. This is our 2006 cover of Rudy Garcia-Tolson, who would go on to become a two-time Paralympic Gold Medalist at 200 IM, a three-time Paralympian, and the only double above knee amputee to finish an Ironman.
No Legs, No Limits.
Heading into the 15th anniversary of the Ironman in 1993, I wanted to put together a very special cover. At that point, Dave Scott had won six titles, Paula Newby-Fraser had five and Mark Allen had four, a total of 15 to go with the anniversary celebration. It’s funny, when we got to the 20th anniversary of Ironman in 1998, we could have used the same cover since Paula was at eight wins with Dave and Mark both at six!