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WHAT IS an Ironman Triathlon?

A thrilling test for the extremely fit, the Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile (3.9-kilometer) swim, a 112-mile (180-kilometer) bike ride and a 26.2-mile (42.1- kilometer) run. It's been said that just finishing is a triumph! The World Triathlon Corporation organizes Ironman Triathlon events held around the world during the year.

The idea for the Ironman began as a competition among a group of Navy SEALs who questioned which sport was more physically challenging; running or swimming? The first Ironman was born in Hawaii, February 18, 1978, when California triathletes John and Judy Collins organized the first endurance triathlon. The 1978 Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon was a swim/bike/run event. The course involved a 2.4-mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim, 180 kilometers (about 112 miles) of the Round Oahu Bike Course and a 26.2 mile Honolulu Marathon.

"Whoever finishes first, we'll call the Ironman," Collins reportedly said, and the Ironman triathlon has been one of the world's most popular endurance events ever since. Not only is the distance punishing, there is a time limit for each part. Most Ironman events allow competitors 17 hours to accomplish all three legs of the race. The event begins at 7 a.m. The swim must be complete in 2 hours and 20 minutes; the bike ride must be done by 5:30 p.m.; and the marathon must be finished by midnight.

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