An FBI agent competing in the Ironman World Championship is impressive enough. Completing it the way Ed Ignacio intends to do it? That’s the kind of story that can gain worldwide attention.
That’s exactly what the 44-year-old graduate of Laupahoehoe High School is hoping for.
Ignacio, who now lives and works on Oahu, will be among those anxiously awaiting the result of Saturday’s lottery, which could allow him to take part in the October race.
Unlike many of the other athletes, Ignacio’s priority isn’t to complete the race in a certain time or finish in a specific spot in his age group. Ignacio’s goal is much loftier. He’s looking to bring attention to the fact that Hawaii is the only state in the nation without a memorial to honor its fallen law enforcement officials.
“My whole purpose is I’m trying to spread the message,” said Ignacio, who took part in the 2012 Ironman World Championship. “The platform that the Ironman provides is huge. It could spread not just statewide, but worldwide.”
If Ignacio’s name is drawn he plans to run the 26.2-mile marathon portion of the event wearing nearly 40 pounds of tactical gear. He’s already finished sprint distance, Olympic distance and half-Ironman distance events wearing the gear, and it’s drawn plenty of attention.
Fans and competitors have opened up their wallets after seeing Ignacio’s dedication to his cause, and have donated almost $4,000 to help build the memorial.
Ignacio’s cause is not a new one — the Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation was formed four years ago. According to its website, “its primary purpose is to design, construct, and maintain a monument to honor law enforcement officers from city, county, state, military, and federal agencies who have died in the line of duty while serving the people of Hawaii.”
The foundation wants to erect “a monument which will perpetually pay tribute to those who selflessly gave so that the people of Hawaii can live, work, play, and raise their families in safety and peace.”
Until last fall, it looked like that was going to happen. A groundbreaking was held three years ago in Honolulu, but last year’s sequestration cuts left the group $300,000 short of the nearly $6 million needed to complete the memorial, according to John Aeto, the foundation’s spokesman.
Aeto said he’s not sure if or when that money will be restored, and Ignacio isn’t content to sit around and wait.
“I wanted to help,” he said. “Being in the FBI, I can’t do fundraising. We’re not allowed to do that.”
He thought back to his Ironman experience in 2012 and how firefighter Rob Verhelst of Wisconsin ran the marathon in his gear in order to help raise money for charity.
“Maybe I’ll do the race wearing my gear,” Ignacio said he thought to himself. “Maybe those donations will come in so that they can build the memorial.”
So Ignacio strapped on his ballistic vest, a helmet and goggles and started running.
“It was pretty difficult,” he admitted. “It’s very difficult. It’s not something you should be wearing when you’re running around. It’s a lot of wear and tear on your back, your knees.”
He’s been able to handle all of the punishment that comes with training with the added weight. Now he wants the opportunity to get his message out via the race.
“It’s extremely important,” Aeto said of Ignacio’s efforts. “It’s not the money that Ed will raise — we think he will raise from $5,000 to $25,000 — it’s the attention. We need to constantly remind people that we are in the closing moments of this thing.”
Ignacio is doing exactly that, Aeto said.
“Ed is doing a tremendous job for us to keep the attention going. We’re hoping a donor or organization or corporation steps forward with a sizable donation to let us start building it.”
Ignacio even has a motto that he is sticking to regarding the race.
“Here to complete, not to compete,” he said. “I’m not here to win the race, I’m here to see that the memorial, the mission is completed.”