Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi earned the “Iron-Mayor” moniker after his legendary finish at the IRONMAN World Championship in October, crossing the finish line just before midnight and providing one of the top moments in the history of the event.
But Kenoi isn’t opposed to an additional nickname, even offering up “Lava-mayor” after completing his fourth Lavaman Waikoloa triathlon on Sunday.
While a little less catchy, the name would be appropriate, considering Kenoi rarely lets anything slow him down.
“About a month ago I wasn’t going to do the race because I pulled my calf, but I felt I had to do it,” Kenoi said. “It’s fun to make people smile and feel inspired. Everybody wants to beat the mayor. Thankfully we have great people putting on these great events here on the island. I love being a part of it, and most of all I’m proud that it happens on our island.”
Kenoi is a few months removed from becoming the first Hawaii Island mayor to conquer the IRONMAN World Championship course, but took some time off training after a whirlwind year filled with all kinds of challenges.
“It was really tough to train last year with everything going on,” Kenoi said. “Once IRONMAN was over I took a rest for a while. Then I realized all the triathlons were coming around again.”
Kenoi finished in 3 hours 32 minutes and 49 second on Sunday, well off his personal best time of 3:08:20 at the event a year ago.
While balancing high-level triathlon training and mayoral duties may be a thing of the past — for now — what has remained is the epic tale of his IRONMAN finish, which he routinely weaves into his speeches to Hawaii Island youth to inspire the keiki to actively pursue their dreams.
“I took 16 hours and 54 minutes to finish IRONMAN and along the way I had about 1,654 times where I wanted to give up or thought I could not go on,” Kenoi said. “But I thought about going back to the kids and telling them I never gave up. I couldn’t look at them and know I gave up. Just as much as I use triathlons to inspire kids, the kids help me to finish these triathlons.”