Ironman distances: A full guide for cyclists

The Ironman is the most famous and media-friendly variant of the long-distance triathlon. In this article, we summarise all the relevant information about this epic event, including distances, times and the most important races.

Image: Scott Bikes - Alistair Brownlee Imagen: Scott Bikes - Alistair Brownlee

How did Ironman Start?

Ironman is one of several variants of the Triathlon, which began in 1974 in San Diego, California and united the three most emblematic endurance sport disciplines; swimming, cycling and running. We explain the origins of the triathlon and all the relevant information in our article on Triathlon Types and Distances: A Complete Guide.

Just four years later, US Navy Commander John Collins and his wife Judy organised the first Ironman Triathlon on 18 February 1978, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The couple had lived in Hawaii since 1975 and, after participating in long-distance swimming and running events, they decided to combine the two races in a single event and then adding cycling to form a triathlon. Participants had to complete the three events consecutively in a maximum time of 17 hours, and the winner would be recognised as the iron man.

15 athletes began the race and only 12 made it across the finishing line. The winner of the first Ironman was Gordon Haller, who completed the race in 11 hours, 46 minutes and 58 seconds.

Ironman gained notoriety and in 1980, it was moved to the island of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and became the permanent home for the Ironman World Championship.

What Distances are in an Ironman?

The full Ironman distances are derived from the distances applied in each of the original Hawaii events. They are the most demanding of the Triathlon distances, with a total of 226.31 km between the three disciplines:

  • Swimming. The Ironman swim is 3.86 km (2.4 miles) and is held in open water. It is the first of the three races.

  • Cycling. After the swim, participants have to cycle 180 km (112 miles), on the road, with triathlon bikes, which have an aerodynamic design for reaching maximum speed on favourable terrain.

  • Running. And the last event is a full 42.2km/26.2 mile marathon, which puts endurance to the absolute test for anyone hoping to complete the Ironman.

The length of a long-distance triathlon is almost the same as the official Ironman distance, but the term Ironman cannot be used for triathlons, in general, as it is a franchise managed by a company.

Image Ironman 70.3 Barcelona / Joan Lanuza Image Ironman 70.3 Barcelona / Joan Lanuza

Ironman 70.3 or Half Ironman Distances

Ironman 70.3, also known as the Half Ironman, halves the distances of each of the full Ironman disciplines. So, the name, 70.3 refers to the total distance of a half Ironman, in miles:

  • Swimming. A 1.9 km. open water swim (1.2 miles).

  • Cycling. When they leave the water, they face 90.1 km (56 miles) of cycling..

  • Running. They finish with a 21.1km half marathon run (13.1 miles).

The 70.3 mile distance of the Half Ironman, is within the margins set by the Triathlon Federations for half-distance races and still well above the distances of the Olympic Triathlon. The Ironman 70.3 is a slightly more affordable alternative to the ultra Ironman distances, and a good way to get started in these long-distance challenges.

How Long does it Take to Complete an Ironman?

In long-distance races and, above all, with the demanding and epic distances of an Ironman race, the range of time athletes take to finish is very wide. The times of an Ironman are based on the following:

  • The max. time limit to complete an Ironman is 17 hours.

  • Between 9 and 12 hours is the time range most athletes take to finish an Ironman.

  • The world's elite professional triathletes can lower these times to 9 hours, in the case of women, and 8 hours in the case of male athletes.

  • The Ironman world record is currently held by Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt, achieved in 2021 at Ironman Cozumel (Mexico) with a spectacular time of 7:21:12, which smashed the previous record of German Jan Frodeno with 6 minutes less, although the Norwegian had favourable water currents during the swim.

  • The Hawaii World Championship record was set in 2022 by fellow Norwegian Gustav Iden, followed by Kristian Blummenfelt and Jan Frodeno with the third fastest time in the event.

  • The women's Ironman world record was held by Great Britain's Chrissie Wellington since 2011. She set it at Challenge Roth with a time of 8:18:13.

  • The women's Hawaii World Championship record is held by Switzerland's Daniela Ryf. She set it in 2018, lowering her own record by 20 minutes. She stopped the clock at 8:26:18 and beat many of the professional men competing.

And how long does it take to do an Ironman 70.3? By halving the kilometres of the Ironman Full distance, Half Ironman times are reduced by an even greater percentage. The average time is between 4 and 8 hours, with elite runners taking even less than 4 hours.

Image Ironman – Daniela Ryf Image Ironman – Daniela Ryf

The most important Ironman events in the world

The IRONMAN® and IRONMAN® 70.3® triathlon series are part of the event portfolio of the Ironman Group, the franchise owner and organiser of numerous international multi-sport events. Between them, the two series have more than 150 qualifying races in over 50 countries. Each series culminates in its respective World Championship, which for Ironman Full is always the Hawaii event, and for Ironman 70.3 rotates annually.

Some of the most important Ironman races in the world are:

  • Ironman World Championship Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. This is the birthplace of the Ironman and the permanent home of the World Championship. It is held in October and to qualify for a place, participants have to qualify in other events in the series.

  • Ironman European Championship Frankfurt, Germany. Held in July, this is one of the most important events in Europe.

  • Ironman Cairns Asia-Pacific Championship, Australia. Held in June, it is the most important event in the Asia-Pacific area, after Ironman Hawaii.

  • Ironman South Africa Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The most important on the African continent.

How Many Ironman Events are Held in Spain?

In Spain we have 4 Ironman venues in 2023. They are the following, in chronological order:

  • Ironman 70.3 Alcudia-Mallorca (Balearic Islands). Held in May and the organisation opted to develop only the 70.3 version, since May 2023.

  • Ironman Lanzarote (Canary Islands). With a tough course through the volcanic terrain of the island of Lanzarote, it is one of the most demanding Ironman races in the world. It is held in May.

  • Ironman Vitoria-Gasteiz (Basque Country). It is held in July, with a swimming race in a reservoir, a cycling race through the Basque mountains and a marathon in the city of Vitoria.

  • Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Barcelona (Catalonia). Organised in October, this is one of the fastest courses in the world series, due to its moderate gradient.

What is the Ironman Prize?

The most important prize for all Ironman runners is surely the personal satisfaction of overcoming a challenge of this scale, and it is the only event able to reach thousands of amateurs in so many parts of the world.

For professional triathletes, there are also financial rewards, of course. The cash prizes vary considerably from one race to another and the amount depends on the importance and notoriety of the event, which, in turn, conditions the sponsorships and broadcasting rights, which are the main source of income for races at this level.

For races that are not area or world championships, ,Ironman prize money ,is typically in the $50,000 range, with $10,000 going to the winners. However, the prize money of some events exceeds and even doubles this amount. The number of participants who receive prize money varies from the top 6 to the top 15 for both men and women.

The total prize money for the Ironman World Championship is $750,000 and $350,000 for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

In both, the prizes are split evenly between the male and female participants as follows:

Position Ironman Ironman 70.3
1st 125.000 $ 50.000 $
2nd 65.000 $ 25.000 $
3rd 45.000 $ 18.000 $
4th 25.000 $ 12.000 $
5th 20.000 $ 10.000 $
6th 18.000 $ 8.500 $
7th 15.000 $ 8.000 $
8th 13.000 $ 7.500 $
9th 12.000 $ 7.000 $
10th 11.000 $ 6.500 $
11th 8.000 $ 6.000 $
12th 6.000 $ 5.500 $
13th 5.000 $ 4.500 $
14th 4.000 $ 3.500 $
15th 3.000 $ 3.000 $
(*) The same prizes for male and female categories

For other races, you can find specific information on-line, where you can also consult the rules, course details and other important information.

Elite triathletes also receive other income, in addition to prizes from the events themselves and advertising contracts.

The Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) distributes a bonus of two million dollars to the top 20 in the world rankings. The amounts vary from $100,000 for the top finisher to $10,000 for the 20th.

And there are circuits or groups of events that establish their own prize pools. The biggest prize on offer in Triathlon events is the Ironman 70.3 Triple Crown, which offers $1 million to the athlete who wins all three Half Ironman races in the same season:

  • Ironman 70.3 Dubai

  • Ironman 70.3 World Championship

  • Ironman 70.3 Middle East Championship Bahrain


Ironman has achieved the fame, recognition and media coverage that an epic test of extreme endurance deserves. But also important to this success is the excellent management of the events and, of course, the marketing, since its first edition, which began with the right choice of the title given to these authentic men and women of iron who are capable of conquering this great challenge.

In Mammoth shops and Mammoth online, you will find everything you need to practice this sport: triathlon bikes, shoes and specific clothing and accessories. Don't hesitate to contact us.

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