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IRONMAN is the most powerful and most recognised series of triathlon events around, staging hundreds of major races each year over both middle and full distances.

This huge entity has become such an all-consuming force in the sport that the brand and the race distance are now seen as the same thing by many – particularly in the United States.

The IRONMAN Group is now owned by Advance Publications following a big-money acquisition from Wanda Sports Group in July 2020. While terms were not publicly revealed, reports suggested the sale price was in the region of $730million.

Beyond triathlon, the IRONMAN Group is now, “the largest operator of mass participation sports in the world and provides more than a million participants annually the benefits of endurance sports through the company’s vast offerings”.

In addition to triathlon, IRONMAN Group events now include the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series, UTMB World Series, Haute Route, Absa Cape Epic and more.

IRONMAN Distances & Races

IRONMAN races are primarily held over two distances – the full Ironman distance and also the 70.3 distance – exactly half that.

Full-distance IRONMAN races take place over a total of 140.6 miles – a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run (a marathon).

IRONMAN 70.3 distances take place over exactly half of the ‘full’ – which is made up of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ad a 13.1-mile run. The ‘70.3’ name – which is a trademark – refers to the total number of miles covered across the three disciplines.

The IRONMAN Group also has another, less well-known series of races in the shape of the 5150 Triathlon Series. These races take place over the classic Olympic distance – a 1.5km swim, 40km bike ride and a 10km run.

The IRONMAN Group has a stacked calendar each year, and this continues despite a number of postponements and cancellations due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The bigger races see thousands of Age-Group athletes lining up to compete along with stellar PRO fields. During the pandemic, the group also introduced their IRONMAN Virtual Racing Series.

World Championship at Kona

The jewel in the IRONMAN crown is the annual World Championship, always raced over the full distance and traditionally taking place on the second Saturday on October in Kailua-Kona on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii.

This race is the Holy Grail for PRO and Age-Group athletes alike, and entry is by qualification only apart from any special invitations and also the IRONMAN Legacy Program (a certain number of places awarded if registered athletes meet the stipulated parameters).

Due to the pandemic, the IRONMAN World Championship did not take place in 2020 and 2021. Instead, a delayed ‘2021’ IRONMAN World Championship took place in St. George, Utah, on May 7, with the event returning to the Big Island of Hawaii in October 2022. For the first time, the event was held over two days.

Following that event, IRONMAN announced that it was no longer possible to hold two days of racing in Kona, and from 2023 the IRONMAN World Championship will be split across two venues. All of the Pro and Age-Group women will racing Hawaii on Saturday October 14 2023, with the men racing in Nice, France on Sunday 10 September 2023. Men and women will then rotate each year, with the Kona / Nice venues confirmed until at least 2026.


70.3 World Championship

The IRONMAN 70.3 Worlds became a championship race in 2006, and after spending its formative years in Clearwater, Florida it now rotates around the world to different venues.

The most recent event took place in St George, Utah in October 2022 (won by Taylor Knibb and Kristian Blummenfelt). After two years in Utah, the global tour begins again with Lahti (Finland) in 2023 and Taupo (New Zealand) up in 2024.

Why is it called IRONMAN?

So we can thank John and Judy Collins for this after they organised the first full-distance event on Hawaii in the late 1970s for endurance athletes.

Legend has it that Judy and John said to each other, “If you do it, I’ll do it,” with John adding “…whoever finishes first we’ll call him the Iron Man”. In short it has nothing to do with the Iron Man film series, so one thing we do not have Tony Stark to thank for.

John and Judy of course have been recognised in another way for their part in the birth of long-distance triathlon – the major new team event from the Professional Triathletes Organisation has been named The Collins Cup in honour of the pair.