Facts & Figures

Distances of the race

  • 3.8km of swim (2.4 miles)
  • 180km of bike (112 miles)
  • 42.2km of run (26.2 miles)

Origin of the race

In 1978 in Hawaii, a group of Navy Seals army-men challenged themselves to find out which athlete was the fittest: swimmer, cyclist or runner? They looked for an answer by combining the 3 toughest races of the island: the Waikiki Rough Water swim (2.4 miles), the Around Oahu Bike Race (112 miles) and the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles). And the legend started right there, with 15 men on the starting line and 12 at the finish…

Development of the race

Word of mouth gave the race its first expansion and when this was relayed by magazine and TV coverage notably by ABC News in 1980, the race started to really expand.

Nowadays above 80 races of such format exist around the world and thousands of competitors challenge themselves to this ultimate test of fitness and endurance.

Current record holders for the distance

  • Men:                Andreas Ralaert (GER)                        7:41:33 at Challenge Roth, Germany, 2011
  • Women:          Chrissie Wellington (UK)                       8:18:13 at Challenge Roth, Germany, 2011

Time limit to the finish

Non professional athletes take much more time to complete the race. The time limit of such races is usually set between 15 and 17 hours.

The bulk of the age-groupers complete the race between 10hrs and 14hrs.

Intermediary cut-offs

Another important feature of iron distance triathlon is the time limits. Because the race goes on for so long (17hrs in MetaMan’s case) it is important to apply the cut-offs strictly so as not to have athletes still on the course by the time we close the finish line. Traditionally he swim cut-off is 2h20, the swim & bike combined cut-off is 11hrs after race start and the cut-off for the final 7km of the run is 16h10 after the race start. MetaMan applies much more lenient cut-off times.

Number of Iron distance triathlons worldwide

Ironman Brand:           35 full-iron distance triathlons [13 in North America, 4 in South America, 10 in Europe, 7 in East Asia Pacific, 1 Sth Africa]

Challenge Brand:         8 full-iron distance triathlons [1 in North America, 5 in Europe, 2 Asia Pacific]

Other Brands:              50+ full-iron distance (stand alone races) [27 in Europe, 24 in America, 7 in Asia [4 Japan, 1 Philippines, 1 Israel, 1 Bintan]

Number of competitors

All iron-distance races across the world amount to about 82,000 entries per year.

Most of the biggest races accommodate between 1,000 and 2,000 competitors and Challenge Roth in Germany is the biggest of all, being booked at its full capacity of 4,000 athletes every year.

Most of the branded-races tend to sell out very quickly: registrations open 1 year ahead of the race and close within a few days (the most popular iron races close within less than 1 hour of the registration opening)

Iconic iron-distance triathletes

Dave Scott: 6 times winner of the ironman World championship in the 80′s. Known for his fierce (and friendly) rivalry (known as “Iron War”) with athlete Mark Allen

Mark Allen: 6 times winner of the ironman World championship in the 80′s-90′s. He also excelled at the Olympic distance, winning the World championship in ’89 and won 10 times in a row the International Championship in Nice.

Paula Newby-Fraser: 8 times winner of the ironman World championship in the 80′s-90′s. She’s nicknamed the “Queen of Kona” and set a record for number of wins at Kona.

Natasha Badman: 6 times winners of the ironman World championship in the 90′s-2000′s. Known for her dominance on the bike.

Greg Welsch: remarkable “Grand Slam” winner in the 90′s, winning all Ironman world championship, ITU triathlon world championship, ITU duathlon world championship and Long course triathlon world championship.

Gordon Haller: winner of the 1st ever Ironman in Hawaii in 1978 in 11hr40

Other household names with remarkable achievements on the iron distance circuit: Craig Alexander, Chris McCormack, Andreas Ralaert, Marino Vanhoenacker, Normann Stadler, Luc Van Lierde, Cameron Brown – Chrissie Wellington, Mirinda Carfrae, Leanda Cave, Yvonne Van Vlerken, Caroline Steffen, Erin Baker, Lorie Bowden… and many more!

Average training volume of the athletes

The average Ironman triathlete spends between 12 to 24 hours each week, training for this event. A typical week includes up to 7 km of swimming, 225 km of biking and 48 km of running. Many competitors also cross-train with weight, stretching and yoga, among other activities.

Rules of the game

As well as being disciplined in their training, iron-distance triathletes need to show discipline on race day and abide by the rules. No one wants to be disqualified in a race that took months to get ready for.

Unlike cycling races, it is forbidden to “draft” during the bike portion of the iron triathlon. It means that athletes must leave a distance between bikes and cannot ride in a peloton. This makes the riding more difficult and solitary. Hence why triathletes need a lot of cheering along the way!

It is also forbidden to receive any form of outside assistance. Iron distance triathlons offer such a high level of support, with aid stations to refuel on food and fluids and athlete must take their supplies from these stations only. This is why volunteering and quality of the aid stations is so paramount.

Consumption of food & fluids during the race

The average calorie expenditure during an IM race is estimated at 10,000Kcal per athlete, as well as fluids losses through sweating.

Iron distance triathletes will consume litres of water, cola and isotonic during the various stages of the race. Add to these, copious amount of energy gels, energy bars, oranges, bananas and salty crackers. And many sponges and ice bags to keep the athletes cool during their effort.

First time – Finisher’s tips

Athletes who compete at these endurance iron-triathlons for the first time are predominantly concerned about simply crossing the finish line within the allotted time.

The race is so long that mistakes done in the early stages of the race will be “paid” most likely during the final stage of the race: the run. The marathon is the most gruelling part of the race for most athletes.

Failure to hydrate and refuel properly during the early stages of the race is a sure way to encounter problems at the run and at the finish.

Demography of iron distance triathletes

75% Men, 25% women

The largest age-group is 40-44 y-old (21%) followed by 35-39 y-old (17%) and 30-34 y-old (16%).

The average age of all iron distance triathletes is 40 years-old.

Youngest: 18 years-old

Oldest: Sister Madonna Buder 82 years-old, US (2012) & Lew Hollander 82 years-old, US (2012)

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