How Long does it Take to Complete an Ironman (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 17 Hours

An Ironman is one of the most popular races which every athlete is aware of. It is a long-distance triathlon race, which can be divided into three events. These three events include swimming, cycling, and marathon. This race is held by the WTC (World Triathlon Championship), and its name was derived from the Ironman World Championship, which was the original Ironman triathlon. The first Ironman triathlon was held in February 1978 at Oahu. For this triathlon, the fee was 3$ and only twelve participants were able to complete the whole race. The three events included were Waikiki Roughwater Swim, Island Bike Race, and Honolulu Marathon. There was no break given to the participants between these particular events.



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How Long does it Take to Complete an Ironman

How Long does it Take to Complete an Ironman?


As mentioned before, an Ironman race contains three parts, i.e., swimming, cycling, and running. To finish the whole race, the participants are supposed to complete 3.8km of swimming, 180km of a bicycle ride, and 42.2km of a marathon. This race begins in the morning at 7:00, and almost all of the participants reach the end line at around midnight. Thus, the time in which all the participants can complete the race is 17 hours. To make sure that the participants finish the race within 17 hours, they must complete 3.8km swimming within 2 hours and 20 minutes, 180km cycling in 8 hours and 10 minutes, and finally 42.2km marathon in 6 hours and 30 minutes. It is noticed that by 5:30 in the evening, most of the Ironman triathletes are done with the 180km of cycling, and have started their marathon.

Completing the race within 17 hours is mandatory for the participants to be considered successful in passing the Ironman triathlon. If any participant is not able to complete the race within 17 hours, then he is considered unsuccessful in passing the triathlon. But the average time required for a triathlete to finish the race is 12 hours and 35 minutes. In these 12 hours 35 minutes, participants take 1 hour 16 minutes to complete swimming, 6 hours 25 minutes for cycling, and 4 hours 54 minutes for the marathon.

But distance and the speed of the athletes aren’t the only things that influence the time required to finish the race. The time required to complete the Ironman triathlon also depends on various factors like the age and gender of the participant, and the course of the triathlon.

Why does it Take That Long to Complete an Ironman?

The course of the three parts of the Ironman triathlon has a lot of influence over the time needed to finish the race. A detailed description of the course of those three parts, i.e., swimming, cycling, and the marathon is given below.

Swimming (3.8km): The first challenge of the triathlon is open water swimming. This usually takes place in the sea or a lake. The participants must use wetsuits during the swim, except for the time when the temperature of the water is above 24°C. Some resting places are also available for the athletes. Here, the participants can have a rest from swimming, and they’ll not be disqualified because of it.  Cycling (180km): After finishing the first challenge, the participants run towards their second challenge, i.e., 180km of cycling. Usually, a transition place is decided where the participants can prepare for their next challenge. The cycling race is mostly held in a hilly area. Marathon (42.2km): Once you have finished the bike race, you’ll be facing your final challenge, i.e., the marathon. 

In which country the race is taking place also affects the time needed to finish the race. This is because the race formats for swimming, cycling, and marathon also change accordingly. The other factors influencing the race time are the age and gender of the participants. In cases of men, the triathletes belonging to the age group 18-50, take 12 hours to complete an Ironman. And athletes having age more than 50 take 13 – 15 hours. Whereas for women, for those belonging to age group 18 – 49, take 13 hours to complete the race, and those who are above 50 take 14 – 16 hours. 


Thus, the time taken to complete the race is based on various factors. The training received by the athlete also affects the race time. But to pass in this triathlon, 17 hours is considered as the cut-off time.

But nowadays a less challenging triathlon is developed for the athletes. It is called Ironman 70.3. In this triathlon, the distances of the original Ironman triathlon are halved. Here, the athletes are required to complete the 1.9km of swimming, 90km of cycling, and 21.1km of the marathon. For completing Ironman 70.3, athletes take about 6 – 7 hours, where 45 minutes are spent on swimming, 3 hours for cycling, and 2 hours 15 minutes on the marathon.


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