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A selection of interesting Ironman races

How many roads have I forgotten?

I’ve been wanting to do an Ironman triathlon for a few years now (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile ride and a 26.2-mile run). I’ve started researching which event I would like to take on*. I have not made this a very comprehensive list, for there are scores of Ironman events all over the world.

Instead I have selected a few of the more quirky versions of the event that appeal to me more.

  • Hawaii. Worth a mention for being the original Ironman event. You either have to qualify or buy a slot on an eBay charity auction. Both options rule me out!
  • Endurance Life’s XTRI24. More or less Ironman distance. Off-road mountain bike section and sea swim make this quite impressive!
  • Celtman. All of my research kept coming back to this as being the UK’s most appealing hardcore triathlon, held in magnificent Torridon. Sadly though you need a support car and a support runner which adds enormously to the cost and faff involved. Both of which have been the main things preventing me trying an Ironman earlier. I was all set to enter this one until I found out about this rule.
  • Hardman. A great name for post-race bragging rights over in Ireland (come on, admit it, you’d love to tell people you’ve just finished the Hardman…!”)
  • Alpe d’Huez: any accusations of wimpishness at a mere 21km run is offset by the cycle section!
  • The Brutal. Hmmm…. I’m detecting a theme here in the naming of these mad, masochistic events. And if the Brutal is too easy (don’t forget that the run section involves the highest summit in Wales), you can always attempt the Double Brutal! Some people always take things a little bit too far…
  • City to Summit. From Edinburgh to the summit of Ben Nevis. I really like the simplicity of this idea.
  • Horseman. Taking place on Dartmoor so ideal for those in the South West of Britain.
  • Norseman. King of Kings – my favourite sounding Ironman-esque event. Norseman is the worlds toughest long-distance distance triathlon. It is also the most northern, taking place at the same latitude as Anchorage in Alaska. The race is a travel through some of the most beautiful parts of Norway. It is not a normal circuit-race as it starts in a fjord and finishes at mountain Gaustatoppen at 1,850 meters above sea level. Total ascent is 5,000 meters. The water temperature is normally about 15.5 degrees C.
    Sadly, you also need a support crew for this, hugely upping the faff factor. But surely this is the most epic of all the Ironman-type events?
  • Unless, of course, you want to attempt 30 Ironman events in 30 days

What do you think?

Have I missed anything out? Please do have your say in the comments.

NB – the word “Ironman” can only be used for official Ironman events. All the others are “Ironman distance” (or further).

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  1. Jonathan Posted

    Any chance you could do a similar list for ultra marathons? I’m planning on running one but couldn’t find a comprehensive overview.


  2. Good article Al, have you seen anything about the Forestman? I fancied that a couple of years ago, very small and mostly off road. Appealing.

    Even the ones without support cars etc are still pretty expensive though, have you considered just going out and doing the distance, just for fun, or with some mates? I did a half a couple of years ago and collared the swim club and bike club for different sections. Finish line was my front door, no medal and it doesn’t really count, but fun day out!

    Enjoy your challenge,


  3. The Norseman is really very good if you’re going to go with an organised event. I supported a friend through it and the scenery was epic, even though the weather was mostly grim.

    Roll your own would be awesome, though. Figure out a route, bribe someone to kayak along the swim section, no messing with high entry fees and no-one trying to make you wear a wetsuit.

  4. If a less mountainous course is also acceptable to you, I highly recommend Challenge Roth in Bavaria! Fastest long distance race in the world (current world records for women and men done there), but most importantly: amazing atmosphere, the legendary Solarer Berg for example ( video I took this year). Just amazing, goosebumps!
    A more adventurous one I plan to try next year, although not strictly ironman distance: Inferno Triathon in switzerland. Swim, road bike, mountain bike and run; 5500m ascent combined, finish on the Schilthorn (almost 3000m).

  5. Jon bradshaw Posted

    Start with a good hard half iron man as build up – the one on Exmoor the Wimbleball half ironman part of the Ironman series. Amazing swim in a cold lake, a brutal bike ride and the. A stunning run.

    Then do the Forrestman in the. The New Forrest, it’s not a big glitzy expensive event and the run is off road to save your knees.


  6. Try and qualify for Hawaii!! 🙂 I think the UK Ironman has age group places available?? Funnily enough someone I coach with right now is preparing for the 30 in 30 days in Italy:
    Celtman sounds pretty good, and if you need a support runner…

  7. I’ll drive your support car for the Celtman. We can rent something and stick a magnet on its side…. If I cannot make it, why not ask for another volunteer through your blog? Somebody’ll do it just to watch the horrid expressions of pain on your face!

  8. Disclaimer: I’m the co-organiser of Celtman!.

    Interesting reading, and thanks for including us in your list.

    To be fair, we were a bit unsure about the whole ‘supporter’ thing when we set the race up. However, we were deliberately referencing Norseman with many of the decisions about the format of the event. As a result, Norseman refer to us as their ‘cousin’. Which is nice.

    What surprised us was the reaction we got post-race from the support teams. This format meant that iron-distance racing became a hugely enjoyable and involved spectator experience. Friends and family were able to get completely immersed in the event themselves, and the supporters became a very important division of the race themselves – they travelled together, stopped for breakfast together, and ended up supporting each other (and in fact, each others athletes!). This is the opposite to ‘normal’ iron-races – they’re a cr*p spectator experience as a general rule!.

    Having a supporter also means we can increase the safety factor, especially on the hill run, without sacrificing exposure and adventure. Beinn Eighe is a slightly different experience to Ben Nevis, or Dartmoor, or….. !

    Yes, it’s more faff. But, it’s just a better and safer experience for everybody, including long-suffering friends and families.

    Hope you can make it to Celtman!.

    • Hi Paul,
      The Celtman sounds wonderful. All that you say makes sense. I would love to do the event one day.
      However, what appeals to me about a race is to hop on the train, go do a race, then come home.
      To find a car, a support crew etc etc and drive it 1400 miles simply isn’t so appealing / financially viable, alas…



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