The Ironman was born back in the 1970’s when a few acquaintances were having a friendly discussion about who was the fittest athlete–a biker, a runner or a swimmer. They created a race that would include all three disciplines and the winner would be declared the “Ironman.”
At the time they were not comparing the race to any other event. There simply was no event in the world like it and it has gone on to become the ultimate endurance race in the world.
It spawned events like the “eco-challenge” and even races that were twice or five times or even 10 times the Ironman distance, but yet none of them have anything in common with the Ironman Triathlon. None of them has captivated the world like the “true” Ironman.
There are several reasons for this.
When it comes to the eco-challenge, trying to compare it to an Ironman is like comparing apples and oranges. There is no similarity. The eco-challenge is more about enduring physical stress while being sleep-deprived. It also requires you to be able to co-exist with others under these conditions. It is not a race for everyone. It is not a race where the final outcome rests solely on your own ability, but is determined by the group as a unit. If you are on a team that completes an eco-challenge, there is no guarantee that you, as an individual, would do well in an Ironman.
Then along came the “double Iron” and after that someone decided to up the ante and there was a “triple iron” and now there is 5X the iron distance and even 10X the iron distance. It really doesn’t matter how many times you try and increase the distance its still like comparing apples and oranges. The Ironman is still unique and competes on its own playing field.
Doubling or tripling the distances(or more) of the original Ironman makes it a totally different event.
It just means you slow down and go further. Once again you begin to deal with competitions that involve physical stress under sleep-deprived conditions which automatically make it an event totally different from the Ironman Triathlon. Also, similar to eco-challenges just because you can do 5 X the Ironman distance, doesn’t automatically mean you will be overly successful in the Ironman Triathlon. Some athletes excel at long, slow distance because of their physical make-up,(more slow-twitch fibres) but the tendency to speed up as soon as a shorter race is attempted will change the end result substantially.
Its kind of like if you can run a 35 minute 10 km race and then you enter a marathon. Well of course, you are not going to run the marathon at your 35 minute 10km. pace. You would probably begin walking about mile 14. Also, because you can run a marathon, doesn’t mean you will be a better and faster 10 km. runner. They are two totally different events. It follows as well, that if you do an Ironman, you don’t automatically become a better marathoner. The marathon is an amazing endurance event in its own right and is totally different from the Ironman.
More by accident than good planning, the friends who conceived the Ironman triathlon, came up with distances that were extremely physically demanding when done sequentially, but yet in the realm of possibility for individuals with a wide range of athletic ability.
Therein lies the secret and the mystique of the Ironman Triathlon. It is an event for everyone. People witness this race and watch ordinary, everyday people striving for the finish line and say to themselves….”I can do this!”
They are indeed, at that moment, “Ironstruck.”
Yet these same people could watch a race that is 5 times or 10 times the distance and it would have no effect on them, because these are races that really, are for a small segment of the population and don’t have anywhere near the amazing history and credibility of the Ironman.
Truly, the Ironman is in a league of its own. It will always be a race for everyone from weekend warriors to the worlds best pros, and I can’t imagine an endurance event that will ever be able to match it for popularity on a world scale.
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