An Ironman with a Giant Heart

Monday, October 7, 2019 /

Brent Hawley during a race

Brent running

One winter, former Thunder Bay deejay Brent Hawley (BA’01) packed up his belongings, sold off most of his real estate holdings, and moved to Hawaii.

After two decades in Northwestern Ontario, Brent had landed a job as a media management consultant for the largest group of radio stations in the Hawaiian Islands – the Pacific Media Group (PMG) in Kailua-Kona.

The position fit perfectly with Brent’s experience in the music industry and meant that he was in a place where he could “swim with turtles and manta rays and watch dolphins glide by my office window.”

Now, Brent has embarked on another major career shift. In December 2018, he relocated to Tampa, Florida, to become the IRONMAN Foundation Director of Development and Marketing – the charitable arm of the IRONMAN triathlon.

“Our athletes have built orphanages in South Africa, purchased lifesaving equipment for hospitals, and provided clean water in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” Brent says. “This job combines my passion for sport, my entrepreneurial spirit, and my legacy of leaving something positive in racing communities. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted all in one.”

Brent’s interest in endurance sports began after a serious motorcycle accident put him in a brace for eight months and left him barely able to walk. When his doctor recommended exercise as part of his rehabilitation, Brent made a snap decision. “I’ve always an extreme person, so I registered for a Team Diabetes marathon in Honolulu.” His father had type 2 diabetes and the idea of raising money to fight the disease was appealing. “It’s a global pandemic,” Brent explains, “more people die of complications from diabetes than cancer.”

Since his first marathon in 2009, Brent has generated over $150,000 for diabetes research for the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) and raced in Antarctica, Rome, Iceland, Peru, Honolulu, and Edinburgh. Initially, Brent’s embrace of athletics was a surprise to his friends and colleagues – his focus had always been music, not health and fitness. Not long after he moved from southern Ontario to attend Lakehead University, he established a successful DJ business, 2-Tone Music. The company was a regular fixture at Thunder Bay weddings and special occasions, including major charity events where Brent volunteered the company’s services. As well as running 2-Tone and taking classes, he was active in the Lakehead University Student Union during his undergraduate days.

Brent stayed in Thunder Bay after he’d earned his BA and was hired by Dougall Media – which owns several local radio and TV stations – and hosted a morning radio show for 15 years. It was on a dare from his co-host that Brent became a triathlete.

“We were chatting on air,” Brent recalls, “when he said to me, ‘You did that marathon, but if you want to be a real legend, you need to do an Ironman.’ By the end of the show, I’d registered for the 2011 triathlon in South Africa.” Since then Brent has competed in triathlons in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, and in Kona, Hawaii, at the IRONMAN World Championship. So when the opportunity to work for the IRONMAN Foundation opened up, Brent jumped at the chance. He also continues to compete in triathlons.

“Races are mentally tough and you’re in pain,” he says, “but nothing is more gratifying than finishing. The hardest part, really, is tying up your shoes every morning.”