July 10, 2023

EE Legend Brian Kelly is a true Ironman

Brian Kelly isn’t sure exactly how many ironman triathlons he has completed. It could be 23, might be 24.

It’s easy to lose track when the numbers climb so high. Kind of like the number of touchdowns in his Canadian Football League career (97, for the record, fourth most in CFL history).

But what the legendary Green and Gold receiver does know for sure is the number of Ironman triathlons he’s competing in this summer (two) and the number of days between Ironman Coeur d’Alene in Idaho last month and Ironman Canada in Penticton, B.C. at the end of August. That’s because it’s the same as his age: 67.

“I knew I was going to do Ironman Canada, and I’ve always wanted to do Ironman Coeur d’Alene, but I’ve been hesitant because the weather can be really dicey down there,” Kelly says. “And then I thought, ‘Hey, I wonder how many days are between Coeur d’Alene and Penticton?’ And it just so happened to be 67 days. So I thought, ‘Ok, well, this is serendipitous; Of course I’m going to do Coeur d’Alene.’”

Kelly placed fourth in his division (men’s 65-69) at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, crossing the finish line in a time of 14 hours, nine minutes and 50 seconds. He’s now less than 50 days from hitting the course in Penticton. Oh, and he’ll also be racing a half-Ironman (70.3 miles) in Harmony, Alberta, just outside of Calgary. on July 30. No big deal.

“I train (at least) once a day, twice a day on many days,” says Kelly, whose weekly regimen consists of three bike rides for a total of 10 hours, three runs for a total of 30 miles, two swims of around 90 minutes, aqua jogging, and daily yoga sessions, often starting at 4 a.m.

“I love the training; I never get tired of it. There’s not a day that I say I wish I didn’t have to do this. And the events are the same way. I love doing them. I love the challenge, I love all the adjustments you have to make; you have to think, be smart. I just really love it. It’s really fun.”

An Amazing Athletic Journey

So how did Kelly go from being a six-time CFL All-Star (1979, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987), five-time Grey Cup champion (1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1987), member of both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (class of 1991) the EE Wall of Honour (inducted in 1989), not to mention the Green and Gold’s all-time leader in every receiving category, to one of Canada’s most top Ironmen in his age group?

“I don’t know what it is,” says Kelly, who started running marathons after he retired following the 1987 season when he was named Most Outstanding Player in the CFL West Division, and eventually transitioned into triathlon, completing his first Ironman at age 45. “I’ve been active ever since I stopped playing football, and that was always one of my plans: I always wanted to be active.”

Every game Kelly played in CFL career – 137 in the regular season plus 17 postseason contests – came while wearing a helmet adorned with the ‘EE’, so it’s fitting that the bike helmet he wears in every Ironman is decorated with that same logo on one side (the logo of his alma matter, Washington State, is on the other side).

Kelly also wears specially designed kits. In Penticton, he’ll don an orange Every Child Matters jersey, commemorating missing and murdered children from residential schools and honouring residential school survivors. In Coeur d’Alene, he suited up in a jersey decorated with the EE logo and a Montreal Alouettes graphic, a tribute to Kelly’s close friend Michael Soles, who played for both teams. Soles, a Grey Cup champion fullback with the Green and Gold in 1993, passed away from ALS on July 7, 2021.

“I race (wearing) that a lot in Michael’s memory,” Kelly says. “Whenever I race, I have a message.”


Be there Thursday, July 13 at Commonwealth Stadium when the Edmonton Elks host the Hamilton Ti-Cats for the Salute to Service game. Being part of the action has never been more affordable, with tickets starting at just $15. Click here to get your tickets now and be part of the tradition.

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