The Ironman World Championships 2014 have taken place this month (12th Oct) in Kona, Hawaii. The race has a professional category and then the other, non-professionals are split into age group categories. The age groups go in 5 year bands, from 18-24-y-o (OK, that's a 7 year band) all the way up to an 80+ category, although there were no athletes in this category this year.
The Ironman World Championships 2014 have taken place this month (12th Oct) in Kona, Hawaii. The race has a professional category and then the other, non-professionals are split into age group categories. The age groups go in 5 year bands, from 18-24-y-o (OK, that's a 7 year band) all the way up to an 80+ category, although there were no athletes in this category this year. The Go Pro Ironman World Championships at Kona in Hawaii is always a great place to see extremely fit Silver Grey athletes, and learn the true extent of what is possible if you put your mind to it and work hard. Within the 2187 competitors (up from 1984 the last time we reported on the event, in 2012) there were 680 competitors who would qualify as Silver Greys (up from 498 in 2012). So the percentage increase in competitors over 50 was greater than the percentage increase in participants as a whole.
An Ironman is a long-form triathlon that takes place over a course which measures 140.6 miles (226.2 km) in total consisting of a 2.4 mile (3.9 km) swim, a 112 mile (180 km) bike ride and, to finish, a marathon - 26.2 miles (42.2 km). The course must be completed inside 17 hours in order to register a result. There are many versions of the triathlon distance, from Novice Class - 10.3 km in total - upwards. There is a 70.3 mile category in which the Ironman distances are halved. The Olympic triathlon, for comparison, measures 31.95 miles (51.5 km) overall, consisting of a 0.93 mile (1.5 km) swim, a 25 mile (40 km) cycle and 6.2 mile (10 km) run. So anyone interested in taking up the sport can do it in stages, perhaps building up to Ironman distance.
Triathlete Mary Goodacre, when we interviewed her, was of the opinion that one of the reasons triathlon is a good event for Silver Greys is that if you have a small injury and are unable to train in any one of the sports, it is generally possible to train in the other sports and so be able to maintain your fitness, especially as both swimming and cycling are low-impact activities. This is an idea shared by Ironman legend Lew Hollander. On his web-site, Hollander also says that he believes the mix of swimming cycling and running is the perfect combination of sports to maintain whole body strength and fitness into age, although he does also stress that good diet, and regular anaerobic training are essential.
Hollander's legendary status within the sport is assured since, as well as having competed at Kona 25 times and having completed over 50 Ironmans, he is also now officially the oldest person to have completed any Ironman triathlon, a feat which he achieved in October 2012 at the Ironman World Championships at the age of 82 years and 129 days. In doing this, he took the record from previous holder Sister Madonna Buder. Buder, however, still holds the record for oldest female to finish an Ironman triathlon. The oldest woman to have completed the Ironman triathlon at Kona in the World Championships is Harriet Anderson who did it in 2012 at the age of 78 years, beating her own previous record of 77 which obviously she had set the previous year.
As if to prove the truth of Hollander's words, there are now very many triathletes over the age of 50 throughout the world who participate in Ironman competitions over the course of a year. Looking at the Ironman website for the overall year-long rankings shows that just in the 50-54 year old age group for male athletes there are over 10,000 athletes who have taken part in Ironman competitions, and amongst female athletes there are over 2,500 who have competed.
Here are some of the finish times of the fastest age group competitors over 50, compared with the fastest overall times:-
|Overall 1st place||08:14:18|
|Fastest woman||Overall 33rd place||09:00:55|
|50-54 M||Bent Andersen||09:31:41|
|50-54 W||Donna Kay-Ness||10:44:43|
|55-59 M||Kevin Fergusson||09:55:07|
|55-59 W||Ellen Hart||11:11:06|
|60-64 M||Taylor Gregory||10:40:27|
|60-64 W||Julie Kerr||12:54:13|
|65-69 M||William Wren||11:28:25|
|65-69 W||Bente Lauritsen||14:11:11|
|70-74 M||Milos Kostic||13:09:18|
|70-74 W||Cherie Gruenfeld||14:09:13|
|75-79 M||Brian Boyle||15:32:15|
As inspiring as are the fastest finishers, here is a thought about the slowest. In order to register a result, the competitor needs to complete the course within 17 hours, and on top of that each stage of swim, cycle and run has its own cut-off time. So think about this if you're in your fifties, sixties or seventies and you are going to spend nearly 17 hours swimming, cycling and running non-stop!