MIKE REILLY, best known as the "Voice of IRONMAN," has also done on-site announcing and television coverage for over a thousand other triathlon and running events in 10 countries. This past October marked his 30th appearance in a row as announcer* of the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
He’s called over 180 IRONMAN races around the world altogether and his iconic call of “You are an IRONMAN!” has been heard by over 350,000 finishers.
It all started in San Diego, CA, where Mike found his passion for endurance sports while training and racing local events in Southern California. He ran the first of twelve marathons in 1978 and competed in his first triathlon in 1979. That was the same year he picked up a microphone for the first time. Two years later he announced the first ever professional triathlon in Solana Beach, CA. He also called the first ten years of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, the most popular marathon series in the world.
At the time, Mike was a middle school teacher. In 1983 he started a running shoe store, "The Swift Pair," with his brother Don. After selling the store, Mike became a sport sales representative for Saucony running shoes. While there he began his long association with Road Runner Sports, which would grow to become the largest running shoe retailer in the world. In 2017, Mike took his place alongside other endurance sports luminaries with a star on the company’s “Run of Fame.”
In 1984 he and his wife Rose started RACEPLACE Magazine in San Diego. Rose ran it for 30 years until it was taken over by their son, Andy. RACEPLACE today is one of the top ten most visited event websites for runners in the United States. In 1999 Mike was one of the first ten members of what was to become Active.com, and headed endurance event sales for that pioneering Internet company for 15 years.
Mike is an Ambassador Captain for the IRONMAN Foundation, the charitable arm of IRONMAN that provides grants and funding to the communities in which events are held. He was co-host with Bob Babbitt of the Competitor Endurance Sports Awards banquet for 19 years, and for the past 16 years he has been a lead committee member and emcee for the Running USA National conference. He is also a co-founding member of Triathlon Business International, an industry business organization that is dedicated to promoting the sport and the business of triathlon.
Mike and Rose, his wife of 43 years, live in San Diego. They have two children, Erin Paulson (a Boston Marathon finisher) and Andy Reilly (an IRONMAN finisher) and two grandsons.
* What does it mean to be an IRONMAN “race announcer?”
It’s about much more than standing with a microphone calling out finishers’ names. Mike’s 19-hour day typically starts before 5:00 am, where he presides over the swim-to-bike transition area as athletes rack their cycles and make last-minute adjustments. He provides critical information about late-breaking changes, course conditions, and the minute-by-minute schedule necessary to get the swim off to a smooth start. He’s then responsible for guiding the athletes into the water and providing instructions about the particulars of the starting protocol, including “gentle guidance” about their positioning. After the swim gets underway, Mike keeps spectators informed about the relative positions of the leaders, and then announces the names of athletes as they complete the swim and head out on the bike portion. During the day, Mike positions himself in a variety of locations to watch the athletes as they come in on the bike and hit various spots on the run course, constantly updating the spectators as to the leaderboard as well as conditions out on the course. Then it’s over to the finish line, where Mike will spend over nine hours bringing in every athlete in the race, providing nuggets of personal information about as many of them as it’s possible to squeeze in. During the last hour or so of the race, as the clock winds down to the 17-hour cutoff mark, Mike will come down from the announcing booth and move right next to the finish line. At that point he’ll do whatever it takes to keep the crowd energized and the last, struggling finishers motivated to make the cutoff: He’ll shout, dance, wave a towel, and even run into the finishing chute to run alongside exhausted athletes and shout encouragement. When they step across the line, they’re treated to the sweetest sound in the sport: Mike yelling “You are an IRONMAN!” at the top of his lungs, as he’s already done as many as 2,500 times that day.