How Long is Ironman? A Look at How the Ironman Distance Came to Be


We’ve all been there: You tell a non-triathlete friend or family member that you’re training for a triathlon, and you get the following questions: “You’re doing an Ironman? That one in Hawaii? It’s how many miles?!”

Of course, not all triathlons are Ironman races and you can be a triathlete without ever doing an Ironman brand or iron-distance race. Any multisport event consisting of swimming, biking, and running is a triathlon. Basically, an Ironman is a triathlon, but a triathlon doesn’t have to be an Ironman. Still, there’s something that draws people to the epic nature of the Ironman distance and can make it synonymous with the sport in popular culture.

How was the Ironman distance established? It all started back in Honolulu in 1978 with the inaugural “Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon.” Then, in 1980, ABCs Wide World of Sports” brought coverage of the race into living rooms around the world. Since then, Ironman triathlon has conjured up images of swimming 2.4 miles in the aquamarine waters off Dig-Me Beach, biking 112 miles through the black lava fields down Queen K Highway, and running 26.2 miles in the brutal heat of the Energy Lab in Kona, Hawaii.

How did that Ironman race come to be?

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