Can anybody do an Ironman?

Or more specifically, could you do an Ironman?

Most people don’t reckon they could, and primarily it’s because they don’t match up to the terminator that everybody thinks of when you mention the word Ironman.

And given that a 4km swim, 180km bike and a 42km run is viewed by most people as something extraordinary, it therefore seems reasonable to assume that the people who do it must be too.

Certainly the terminators do exist. Not in the going-back-in-time-to-kill-your-mother kind of way, but rather running, cycling and swimming at speeds most of us could only dream of.

But those are the guys and girls that typically win the race (or at least come close), so it seems absurd to rule out the possibility of ever completing an Ironman because you don’t measure up to an elite athlete.

Not your average Ironman

Not your average Ironman

When we talk about just getting to the finishing line, I am going to stick my neck out (particularly given that I haven’t even done one yet) and say that almost anybody is physically able to do an Ironman; the bigger question is the mental side of it.

My experience would definitely support that point of view. The members of my local club, the BRATS (Bondi Running and Triathlon club), come in all sorts of different shapes, ages and sizes. Plenty of them have done the distance, and even more are currently training to take one on. There is no standard Ironman ‘look’.

The BRATS.  They're a friendly bunch.

The BRATS. They’re a friendly bunch.

And to make sure my personal experience isn’t the exception that proves the rule, I decided to dig around and see what data there was on the World Wide Web about what the ‘average’ Ironman competitor.

Turns out that information is more difficult to find than you might imagine, but what I was able to find out is that the biggest age group in most races is 40-44, the oldest participants are in their 80’s and there is a pretty even split between women and men (60/40).

Not quite as scary as we initially thought.

But what happens if you have been dealt a bad hand? What if you have no legs? What if you are massively overweight? What if you can’t see?

They all seem like pretty legit reasons for not doing an Ironman. But for most of them, you will be able to find someone who has given it a go.

The most famous example being Team Hoyt. They are a father and son team consisting of Dick, the father, and Rick, the son who has cerebral palsy. His condition would stop most people in their tracks, but thanks to his dad, who pulls / carries / pushes him as he goes; Rick has completed hundreds of endurance events.

At this point I would love to include their video, but I can’t as I am still on the budget friendly version of WordPress, so here is the link instead:

And there are plenty of other inspirational stories out there – Scott Rigsby, who lost both of his legs in a car accident, Patricia Walsh, who lost her sight as a child after an operation to remove a brain tumour and John Maclean, who became a paraplegic after getting knocked off his bike.

These guys certainly don’t have the best physical attributes for an Ironman, far from it. But through years of training and endeavour, they have been able to overcome their limitations to take part in an event that has become the benchmark for endurance.

So, in answer to my initial question: can anybody do an Ironman? I reckon most people are capable of doing an Ironman. The better question would be do you want to do an Ironman, and if so, how much?

Highlight of the week: did a 17km practise run of most of the route for next weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon. Based on how it went, I am in with a shout to do less than 90 mins on the day, provided everything goes to plan.

Lowlight of the week: Hearing how well Tom and Turfey did in Byron. They both smashed it, would have been an awesome race. Oh well.


P.s if anyone wants some insanely geeky stats about running / triathlon, check out It made me lose all sense of time for a bit.

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