It took 10 years and six races, but Major General David Smithdirector of Plans, Programs and Requirements of the Air Force Reserve here, finally went to the Ironman World Championship race in Kona, Hawaii, earlier this month.

Triathlons are grueling competitions involving a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run, and only 6% of Ironmen participants worldwide qualify for world championships. . Smith qualified for the 2021 Ironman World Championship by finishing third in his age group in the 2020 Ironman Florida race. However, the championship race in 2021 was canceled due to COVID, so his entry has been delayed until this year.

Smith started racing in high school, but it wasn’t until a posting to the US Northern Command that he was introduced to Ironman racing by a colleague in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“I was working shifts at the time, and my friend and I talked about working out together,” Smith said. “He was a professional athlete and I asked him if he thought I could do a long distance run, and he said absolutely. We started training together, and that’s when I did my first half of Ironman around 2010. Then I raced a full Ironman in 2012, and the rest, you could say, is history.

But this story is not just about the end of a race. With only 0.00006% of the world’s population making it to the Ironman World Championship, Smith firmly believes that what makes successful people successful is the same thing the Air Force advocates for making better leaders: resilience. , dedication, time management and goal setting.

“I believe athleticism and a routine actually contribute to good leadership,” Smith said. “I believe the accomplishments I have made throughout my Air Force career are due to my involvement in Ironman. High achievers, whether in fitness or sports, are also high achievers in their daily lives, whether in their work, leadership or personal life.This will contribute to your mental well-being and physical fitness and make you a better leader no matter where you are in life.


The general said his goal was to inspire an Airman or Guardian to make fitness a part of their life. “I’ll be 54 in November, and if a 54-year-old officer can compete in an Ironman event, guess what, our 20-, 30-, and 40-year-old Airmen and Guardians can too,” he said.

“Just make fitness a part of your life,” Smith continued. “If you look at the spectrum of resilience General Brown and bass leader Let’s articulate to our Airmen, physical fitness covers three of the pillars of the resiliency spectrum. Fitness helps you take care of yourself by reducing stress, keeping you physically fit and contributing to your mental well-being. It also promotes peer and social connections, as physical fitness often involves working with others. I have made lifelong friends through my runs.

Smith said he believes in the Ironman slogan: Anything is possible. “While not everyone becomes an Ironman, if you set a goal, have a plan to achieve that goal, and dedicate your daily routine to achieving that goal – whether it’s running a marathon, doing a Ironman race or even finish school – you will achieve your goal,” he said.

Tips from an Ironman:

Have a goal: You can pretty much do anything you want as long as you have a goal and then manage your time appropriately. Sometimes goals change due to work/life balance, and that’s okay. You should constantly evaluate your goals and adjust them as needed.

Time management: People often ask me how I find the time to train for an Ironman between my military commitment, my civilian job and my family. I tell them that I am very conscious of my time, that prioritization is essential and that I adapt my schedule to my objectives.

Accountability: This is also a matter of setting goals. When you set your goal, you need to be responsible for following it, whether it’s for yourself or someone else.

Take time for yourself: I consider my training time as a time for personal reflection, a time for meditation or a time for well-being. This is when I separate, detach myself from emails, social media, or other distracting events, and focus on my task or training, dedicating that time to myself.

Balance: Balance between work, family and personal routine is extremely important. Everyone has to find their own balance. I try to do only one race a year in order to keep a balance between my work and my life.

Leading by Example: I am a big believer in our leadership (officer and enlisted) leading by example. I did an Ironman when I was a group commander and as a wing commander. People are always watching, and if our Airmen and Guardians see our leaders making fitness and mental health part of their daily routine, they will hopefully be inspired to make fitness part of their life.

Tailor it: Tailor your training and tailor your time to spend on your goal.