’40 Years of Dreams’ - the Ironman race turned 40 years old this year. With it’s slogan ‘Anything is Possible’ this endurance event has attracted participants that not only have the ability to endure the distance but endure life.
A traditional Ironman will typically consist of 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.
The original Ironman triathlon which first took place in 1978 in Hawaii has gone on to become the location for the annual World Championship.
Ironman triathlons are considered to be one of the toughest one day events in the world.
In 2005, the 70.3 Ironman officially became a race series. Otherwise known as the 'Half Ironman', the 70.3 refers to the total distance in miles covered in the race; a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run. These were the distances that competitors facing the challenge at Weymouth had to complete.
Weymouth has a growing reputation in the UK as the most popular Ironman event with 1,350 of the 2,750 participants being first timers, 600 of these being female athletes. Plus disabled athletes, those suffering from neurological conditions and cancer have pushed themselves to take it on.
It's not a surprise when you consider that the athletes get to race through the beautiful and historic Weymouth Bay, plus the picturesque Dorset countryside for the bike section of the race. This helped to attract athletes from France, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, USA, India, Russia and South Africa.
It's not often I like my alarm going off at 4am on a Sunday, even though I do like my sunrises and getting outside during the early hours. It was quite clear from this particular event that the forecast bad weather was going to add an extra challenge. So much so on the swim, that the course was shortened to 950 metres.
Having swum from Weymouth beach as both a child and adult, there was a certain amount of excitement. In living memory I had never seen the stony end of the beach so packed. Not only with competitors but also those supporting. Racing got underway at 7:20am with the elite men followed by the elite women. Then followed the rest of the field release periodically into the swim stage.
The weather was not dampening anyone’s spirits.
From completing the swim stage the athletes were straight into transition at Lodmoor country-park. The road conditions were wet and slick as the athletes headed out on their bikes.
The riders were facing some big climbs in the beautiful Dorset country-side. As the morning moved the weather steadily improved and the crowds had stuck it out to support the athletes.
Thankfully as the day moved on the weather improved even more. The picturesque run was around Weymouth seafront, town and harbour side. Local club Bustinskin was providing enthusiastic and colourful support for the runners.
Eliot Smales was first across the line for the men and India Lee for the Women.
There was a huge amount of support for the elite athletes crossing the finish line. But the biggest cheers from the crowd were for the majority of participants who had pushed themselves to achieve an exceptional personal goal.
Ironman is so iconic and such a big challenge it truly brings out the best in people’s spirit. It is one of the ultimate outdoor challenges.
By Gus Mckechnie
Gus is a world record holder, marathon runner, charity event organiser and wheelchair rugby player.