Ironman FAQ: Common questions about one of the worlds toughest race

How long does it take to do an Ironman?

Athletes have 17 hours to complete the Ironman triathlon.

Users of our training plan break down like this:

  • The average male completes it in 12.5 hours
  • The average female around 13 hours.

How many miles is a Ironman?

A full Ironman triathlon is 140.6 miles done across 3 sports:

  • 2.4 mile swim (~3,800 meters)
  • 112 mile bike (180 kilometers)
  • 26.2 mile run (42.16 kilometers)

A half Ironman, or Ironman 70.3 is exactly half of each distance.

Do you eat during an Ironman?

Yes, in fact it's critical to consume categories during an Ironman triathlon.

Most athletes forgo 'meals' like sandwiches and entrees for the likes of energy gels/gus and electrolyte and salt tabs.

So while it's not 'yummy food' per say, it's efficient and easily digestible calories consumed throughout the day.

How much does an Ironman cost?

Many Ironman races cost more than $700 per person to register.

That sounds like a lot and, well, it is. But consider what that covers:

  • 140.6 miles of road shut down for an entire day (weekend really)
  • Safety, medical and police personnel to keep you safe
  • Food, drink, and logistics to maneuver 2-3,000 people throughout the day
  • (Obviously) the swag

While that doesn't make it any 'cheaper', it does make it slightly more 'reasonable'.

How do you qualify for an Ironman?

There is only 1 Ironman you need to qualify for, and that's Kona (i.e. the World Championships).

Qualifying for that race can be very difficult. Unlike something like the Boston Marathon, where there is a set time to beat to qualify - the Ironman World Championships are based on your finishing place in the race, and how many slots that race is awarded.

Some races only get 1 slot per age group - meaning to qualify, you'd have to WIN your age group.

Luckily, the average person needs not worry about this - and can simply sign up and pay to participate in hundreds of other official Ironman races.

Can you stop during Ironman?

Yes. You can stop, walk, rest, sit down, nap if you want. However, you will still need to make the various cutoff times to continue your day.

There is a cutoff time for the swim, the combined swim+bike, and the full 17 hour cutoff for the entire race itself.

Can you listen to music during an Ironman?

No. Ironman explicitly forbids personal music devices during the race.

Other than the obvious reason (safety) they note that Ironman is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. Part of the mental challenge is surviving your own doubts throughout the race.

So you might as well memorize that pump up song, because on race day, it'll have to come from within.

Do people walk during an Ironman?

Yes. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find any non-pro who DOESN'T walk during an Ironman.

Even if they're short spurts to eat/drink at aid stations while walking, the marathon course is full of people taking it easy and surviving their way to the finish line.