Judge John Hodgman Episode 19: The Ironman Trial-Athlon


Should an endurance event enthusiast (and former couch potato) be allowed to participate in an Ironman Triathlon against the wishes of his wife?

Tom turned his life around several years ago, losing 80 pounds through running and other exercise. He's since participated in a marathon and a half-Ironman triathlon, but dreams of seeing his addiction to extreme physical fitness through to a capstone event, the full Ironman triathlon.

His wife Veronique is supportive of his exercise regime as it stands and approves of Tom participating in less strenuous events. However, she feels the Ironman is just too risky for him to attempt.

Our first ever sports-and-exercise-related case: how will Judge Hodgman rule?

You may view the evidence for this case behind the jump, and as always subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or through this RSS feed.

Tom's Evidence

Exhibit A
"Me, with my two sons who are very proud of the way their dad sets lofty goals and then does what is necessary to achieve them. This was right before the race started."

Exhibit B
"The beach and lake (you can see the line of swimmers from the far dock to the point where my wife was standing). Most Ironman races are held in scenic areas so that the participants and family can enjoy nature's beauty. Usually a family makes the trip into a vacation (especially after the race)."

Exhibit C
"Me, with two gentlemen from my area on the beach after the race. I don't look like I suffered, did I?"

Exhibit D
"Me, and my two sons (my wife is taking the photograph) at a restaurant for dinner that night celebrating my first half-Ironman and my birthday. Again, doesn't look like the old man is about to keel over from doing this race!"


Dream Crusher

People change. I hope the wife soon finds a new hobby, a new activity that brings passion and joy into her life. Something that she can do to feel proud about herself.

Then I hope that the husband prohibits her from enjoying that activity. I hope that all her dreams and aspirations in life get crushed and that she live a sad and dull life.


Accountability to your promises is important, and giving up something to keep them is a far more important example to set your kids than endurance sport participation.

The chap involved may want to look at starting crossfit; daily extreme exercise which won't isolate him from his family.

Dear Jesse

There are only three syllables in the word "triathlon".

But I so enjoy the podcast that I'll let that one go by.

Interpretative dance portion of the Ironman Marathon

Very few people realize how dangerous the interpretative dance portion of the Ironman marathon can be. Contestants are often expected to depict the plight of the sable elves after their historical expulsion from Narnia by the cute but apparently Satanic talking animals (who also symbolize Democrats). If the judges cannot quickly interpret the allegorical significance of the Ironman contestant's dance, or if one of the Judges turns out to be a staunch Democrat, he or she may get stuck dancing continusoulsy for up to 4 or 5 weeks at a time, desperatly trying to convey the meaning of the elf-witch's abnormally long fingernails (which can be wrought with political implications, obviously). Approximately 4 to 58% of Ironman contestants require medical attention immediately after completion of the dance, though many of the survivors go on to have successful careers in Right-wing politics, most notably Fox News, as was the case with Sean Hannity.

Two thumbs up


Great show, unfortunate ruling

I love the show. I've listened to every episode and been delighted by John's wit and wisdom. That said, I feel compelled to express my opinion on his most recent ruling.


Couple quick thoughts: 1)

Couple quick thoughts:

1) Whilst I feel bad for the chap who lost in this case, he should have known (or at least suspected) that Judge John Hodgman would not find in favour of sports. His dislike of sports is widely known.

2)Didn't our Judge Hodgman previously state that he would no longer be getting involved in cases between a husband and wife?

3)I enjoy the in-chamber snap judgements. That is a good addition.

4)This is still my favourite podcast. Thanks Bailiff Jesse and Judge Hodgman

This episode made me never want to get married

I'm sure that the wife is actually really nice and loving, but man this episode is a strong argument for the single life!
Let the man be a man! An Iron Man!
Marathons are not meth, go for it!

Stunned by Judge Hodgman's words

To describe someone attempting to achieve a dream like this as being "selfish" is truly mind-boggling. Few humans are ever able to accomplish an Ironman triathlon and those that do are definitely worthy of our respect and awe. Most people never even attempt something difficult, being satisfied with sitting around their fetid living room watching reruns and eating tasteless processed food. The fact that we don't champion the few among us who take on difficult tasks is a sad and telling fact that comments on contemporary American society.

I really thought Judge Hodgman was smarter than this and had a firm grasp on values and honor, but I see that his cynical Brooklyn hipsterism has penetrated even that steeltrap mind.

Achieving anything extraordinary always takes dedication and the support of a family. The fact that they don't support this poor man in his dream is an ominous sign as to the longevity of this marriage. Maybe his next wife will be more supportive when a husband wants to achieve something amazing.

And it is not as if the dream is even onerous, or hurtful to anyone! It is only to better himself and achieve a level of physical accomplishment that few ever dare to dream of. If one cannot support him in this, then why ever try to do anything? Do you want to learn piano? Never! It will take you out of the house a few hours a week and away from this family! We demand your constant fawning presence! Do you want to learn a new language? No way! We cannot spare even a moment of your attention! You say you want to go back to school to get an enhanced degree so you can provide more for your beloved children? How many hours a week did you say? Impossible! Volunteer at the orphanage? Shovel the neighbors walk? Donate clothes to Goodwill? No no and no again!

I am at a loss as to which is more disappointing, this wife attacking her husband again and again on the air in public, or Judge Hodgman's blind support of her narrow-mindedness.


I really like this podcast, but I found this episode disturbing. It is beyond me how anyone could have sided with the wife in this episode.
I couldn't agree more with the above poster. He isn't in a 'dart league,' swilling booze on Thursdays and waking up with a hangover, he's trying to compete in a triathalon. This is a decent and worthwhile activity that might teach his children...to attempt challenging things.

The man simply wants to challenge himself and finds great personal reward in accomplishing goals. I imagine that could have been what led him to MIT and then into the medical profession. I suppose he was in the wrong for breaking a promise to his wife, but why is his wife asking him to promise not to run marathons in the first place? Why is she asking him to not participate in triathalons?

I suppose a better usage of his time, in a manner that would mitigate undo risks, would be from smoking and drinking. Granted, he'd have less photos of himself wearing Speedos, but who's to say he can't hang around the kids more?

I hope they enjoy the rest of their marriage, both months of it. I think this is why people get divorced...or maybe why I'm not married.

as someone who's run

as someone who's run marathons and an ironman (sub 9:50 baby!!), you're ridonkulous.

it's selfish. VERY! how you compare it to volunteering at a orphanage is beyond me.

Get a real life, runners

Not me. I'm forwarding this episode to several friends who neglect their families in the name of running around and riding their bikes. The world needs better parents, not better bike riders or runners. Hang it up, time intense sports enthusiasts!

You are absolutely right. The

You are absolutely right. The idea that this is somehow a 'dangerous' activity is silly. He is setting a good example for his kids.

Maybe instead of bitching about it, his wife can get off of what I am rudely, and yet probably accurately, assuming is her gigantic ass, and start moving a little herself.

Confirmation bias

You guys seem unaware of the fact that marathoning, ultramarathoning, and iron-manning is truly bad for you. Healthy 20-something year old kids drop dead in marathons. http://www.google.com/search?q=marathon+death

The wife here, a physician, stated statistics that flatly disprove your statement "The idea that this is somehow a 'dangerous' activity is silly." (she also stated that she had just finished a 5k, so much for not moving)

When you have a family, putting yourself at that risk is absolutely selfish, what kind of example would he be setting for his kids if he died as a result of this pursuit?

You are wrong...

As someone who knows both of them well, she has participated in athletics events herself and is very active. He is the classic overachiever and doesn't know when to quit. He sets a fine example for the kids without doing a triathlon. Bravo to Hodgman for the judgment.

A Question for Bailiff Jessie

I would like to hear more about your Doctor Strangelove Biathlon. Can you explain it more?