Is IRONMAN too corporate?

IRONMAN is a trademark of the World Triathlon Corporation, a privately owned business. It should not be confused with the International Triathlon Union which is the international governing body for the sport. This is why Ironman distance races are often called things like Lakesman or described as iron distance or full distance.

Several people I know have adviced me to be wary of IRONMAN-branded events because they are a “bit wanky” and too up themselves. Having recently completed IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth, I have had the chance to observe this up close for myself.

Is the reputation justified? In my opinion, they are good events. But I understand why people think that about them. Below, I will break it down.

Price

Let’s start with the big one: price. Once you add in the ACTIVE.com registration fee, I paid £280.80 for IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth. That is a lot of cash.

The average triathlon costs around £50. But things get much more expensive at middle and full distance because of the logistics of running a race for 8-17 hours, and the changing tents, toilets, nutrition and other costs that they run into.

But even so, £280.80 is a lot. Consider that for The Yorkshireman, I paid £285. That was a full-distance race. If you want to do the half, it is only £145. Cotswold 113 is £164.

Super expensive compared to other middle distance races then.

But do you get more at the IRONMAN events? There are a couple of things. Slightly more porta-potties. They had them at every aid station. Sundowner had none but The Yorkshireman had plenty, but not as many as IRONMAN.

IRONMAN close the roads. This is nice as 90km is a long way, and the only other races that do this are the shorter Redcar and World Triathlon Leeds. That said, most triathlons take place on roads with almost no cars and we were not allowed to cross the centre line, so I am not sure it made a huge difference.

We also received a backpack and a finishers t-shirt, so two gifts. The backpack is very nice and I have been using it a lot. The t-shirt is a bit rubbish, though, I suspect to drive us to buy the nice t-shirts from the merch store.

So, £130 for closed roads and a backpack. It’s hard to conclude anything other than that we are paying a lot for the brand name.

Finish line

Both The Outlaw and The Yorkshireman allow you to run down the finish line with your friends and family. IRONMAN is very clear that if anyone does that, the athlete will be disqualified. This is the thing they get the most shit for.

To be fair to them, they did address this issue at the athlete briefing.

They said their reasons were twofold. One, they did not want any non-athletes impeding an athlete that might be trying to set a qualifying time for the world championship or to represent their country. This is a consideration other races may not have.

Second, they said if the athlete collapses and needs medical attention, they do not want to be dealing with children or loved ones when their medical team have work to do.

Other races manage these logistics, but at least IRONMAN are upfront about their reasons and having heard them, I can understand why they may choose to do that.

Cut-off times

In any long format race, you have cut-off times you have to meet or you fail to achieve the title of Ironman. That said, how much they are enforced varies from event to event. I know Freebird let people finish well after 8pm at Sundowner, for example, and told me they would have kept the Yorkshireman finish line as open as long as needed.

IRONMAN seems a mixed bag. Even though I was well ahead of the cut-off when coming out of the swim, a marshall was yelling “you need to get out, we’re closing the doors in 3 minutes”. That said, the last athlete came across the line at 8:23:something, even though the cut-off time was 8 hours.

Sponsors

Everything is sponsored. The aid stations are Enevit. The swim, bike and run sections are individually sponsored by Roka, Ventum and Hoka.

I don’t really have a problem with this. Sponsorship is a part of life in sport. In some ways it was good: when we finished, we got Domino’s pizza. It is a little annoying that Enevit provides all of the nutrition, though, as it doesn’t seem to be available in the UK, so I could not try their products in advance.

Event size

2,700 athletes took part in Weymouth, according to IRONMAN. It is a similar size to Leeds. The downside is that there is a lot of organisation around this regarding registering, racking, etc. And it took them an hour to get us all into the water.

But it has advantages, too. The crowds were bigger than almost any other event. World Triathlon Leeds is the only one that musters as much support. People yelling out your name and some encouragement is very welcome seven hours into a race.

Conclusion

I like pretty much everything about the IRONMAN event. It was well organised, smooth and there was plenty of support. It was a high-quality event and still a pretty friendly affair. I would recommend their events.

That said, it is expensive. And given the organisation at The Yorkshireman was pretty much as good, I can only conclude that the extra money is mostly because of the brand name.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 am and is filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.