This Sunday 22 July, over 1500 athletes from around the globe will converge on Bolton, Lancashire, in the north west of England for Bolton’s fourth annual Ironman UK outing. Attracting some of the world’s leading Ironman triathletes, this sell-out event will also see competitors from 34 countries take part.
Consisting of a 2.4 mile swim in Pennington Flash, a 112 mile cycle through the rolling Lancashire countryside, the event finishes with a 26.2 mile looped marathon course where some 30,000 supporters are expected to cheer the athletes all the way to the finish line in Bolton town centre.
As the Ironman UK organising team points out, ‘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.’
Kevin Stewart, Managing Director at Ironman GB & Ireland said, “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 Ironman UK 2012 event takes place over this coming weekend with a range of activities for all the family. In addition to the main Ironman UK event on Sunday 22 July, there will be an Ironman Expo at The Reebok Stadium from Thursday 19 to Saturday 21 July. This is free for the public to attend and represents a good opportunity to view and buy the latest multisport equipment.
Saturday 21 July will see a sell-out IronKids run – with 1,000 children aged between 3 and 16 taking part in the inaugural Ironman UK IronKids event, which is supported by Bolton Council as part of its Year of Sport.
The weekend’s events are free for spectators to come and watch. With Ironman UK action taking place across Lancashire on 22 July, there are a number of opportunities and venue to view the event including Pennington Flash where the swim will start at 06:00 and Victoria Square in Bolton town centre, where the first athlete is expected to finish at around 14:30.
Amongst those entered in this year’s Ironman UK age group field is former double Olympic medallist Rebecca Romero, who is turning her hand to triathlon for the first time having represented Great Britain in Rowing and Cycling – only the second woman in history to win Olympic medals in two 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.”