Middleton athlete has “no plans of stopping,” after finishing 31 Ironman races

Birkelo has completed 31 Ironman races, and for 18 straight years, has competed in Ironman Wisconsin.
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 10:57 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2022 at 11:03 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The 20th anniversary of Ironman Wisconsin will take place on Sunday, Sept. 11, and athletes from all around the country will be in town to compete in the capital city. However, for John Birkelo, the race is just in his backyard.

Birkelo has completed 31 Ironman races, and for 18 straight years, has competed in Ironman Wisconsin.

Birkelo said he finished his first Ironman in 2004, and from there was hooked. He most recently won his age division back in June at Ironman Des Moines.

While Birkelo has competed in Ironman races across the country, he said the support from the Madison community and the course stands out among others.

“The overwhelming response is this was the best Ironman I’ve ever done, and they come back,” Birkelo said. “It’s also one of the toughest ones, with the hills that we have in Western Dane County and the run course here, it’s not an easy one.”

As Ironman Wisconsin celebrates it’s 20th anniversary on Sunday, Birkelo hopes to reach that 20th milestone himself one day.

“I’m going to compete for as long as I can finish these races,” Birkelo said. “And I’m going to do Ironman Wisconsin as long as I can, now that I’m on a streak of 18 in a row I can’t stop, and I don’t want to.”