This Sunday 22nd July, over 1500 athletes from around the globe will converge on Bolton for the 4th annual Ironman UK, an event that is regarded as one of the world’s ultimate tests of endurance.
Attracting some of the world’s leading Ironman triathletes, this sell out event will also see competitors from 34 countries take part, including Olympic Gold and Silver medalist Rebecca Romero MBE, double amputee soldiers Simon Harmer and Joe Townsend and first timer Francie Clarkson tackle this remarkable feat.
Consisting of a 2.4 mile swim in Pennington Flash, a 112 mile cycle through the spectacular Lancashire countryside, the event finishes with a 26.2 mile looped marathon course where some 30,000 supporters are expected to cheer them all the way to the finish line in Bolton town centre.
While the Pro athletes will complete the race within a remarkable 8 1/2 hours for the men and 9 1/2 hours for the women, there will be many first timers, from the age of 18 to 70 simply looking to cross the finish line within the 17 hour time limit to gain the Ironman badge of glory as well as a tremendous sense of achievement.
Eimear Mullan (Ire) and Fraser Cartmell (GBR), both aged 30, are amongst the pre race Pro favourites battling it out for the $25,000 prize fund. Having won the recent Ironman 70.3 UK, this will be Eimear’s only second full distance Ironman that she has undertaken. Cartmell meanwhile will be looking to regain his 2010 Champion title, fending off anticipated competition from veteran Ironman athlete Petr Vabrousek from Czech Republic, who has competed in an astonishing 110 ironman distance triathlons to date, having won 22 of them.
Amongst those entered in this year’s age group field is former double Olympic medalist Rebecca Romero, who is turning her hand to triathlon for the first time having represented Great Britain in Rowing and Cycling – only the 2nd woman in history to win Olympic medals in 2 different Summer Olympic sports. “This time it’s not about winning gold or silver” she said “If I get across the finishing line, it’ll be an amazing achievement.”
Whilst all of the athletes are an inspiration to watch, a particular mention has to go to double amputees Simon Harmer and Joe Townsend who will be part of Team True Spirit, a charity set up to support injured servicemen. For Simon, who lost both his legs after stepping on a makeshift bomb while on patrol in Afganistan, this will be his first Ironman as well as his first triathlon since losing his legs in 2009. In preparation of Sunday’s event Simon commented, “This will certainly be a challenge and I’m looking forward to it. I just really hope that I will be able to finish it. I’m doing this to make my family proud and to help the charity – without them life would be an awful lot harder”.
Francie Clarkson will also be part of the 40 strong True Spirit Team. Having turned 50 this year, Clarkson will be swapping car rallying for pedal power as she takes to triathlon for the first time this year. Having been declared ‘hopeless’ by her orthopaedic surgeon and having had to learn to swim, training has been all consuming aside from the daily demands of work and raising two teenagers. Crossing the finish line by her own admission will be “a huge sense of relief, but however amazing it is for an able bodied athlete to complete an Ironman, for the wounded serviceman it is truly remarkable.”
The event takes place over this weekend with a range of activities for all the family; In addition to the Ironman UK event on Sunday 22nd July, there will be an Ironman Expo at The Reebok Stadium from Thursday 19th to Saturday 21st July which is free for the public to attend and a great opportunity to view and buy the latest sports equipment.
Saturday 21st July will see a sell out 1,000 children aged between 3 and 16 take part in the inaugural IronKids run, an event which is supported by Bolton Council as part of their Year of Sport.
Kevin Stewart, Managing Director Ironman Britain and Ireland commented, “Having made a number of changes to the event for 2012, we are really looking forward to welcoming athletes of all ages to Ironman UK. The facilities of Bolton and the surrounding countryside offer a superb platform for staging such an iconic event and we very much hope spectators will come and support the athletes throughout their race.”
The weekend’s events are free for spectators to come and watch. With Ironman UK action taking place across Lancashire there are a number of opportunities and venue to view the event including Pennington Flash where the swim will start at 6am and Victoria Square in Bolton town centre, where the first athlete is expected to finish around 2:30pm.
For further information on the event please visit www.ironmanuk.com.