THE HEAT was on for firefighters as they put their fitness to the test in a challenging duathlon yesterday.

Fire crews from Bolton and across the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, as well firefighters from other parts of the country were joined by those wanting to take on the testing event at Rivington.

Around 200 people got up at the crack of dawn to overcome their first challenge — battling the elements before limbering up for the duathlon, named the Fire Fighters 2UP.

First to get underway was the Tri Kidz race which gave them a taster of what their parents were about to face over the next couple of hours.

The youngsters enjoyed a run across the fields at Rivington and Blackrod High School in Horwich, from where the duathlon also started.

Winner of the Tri Kidz race was Isaac Battye, aged 11, from Horwich, who was using the event as a warm up for a bigger challenge later in the year.

He said: “My dad is taking part in the duathlon and I sometimes train with him.

“I like keeping fit and and will be doing the Iron Kids.”

Then it was the turn of the adults who faced a loop of 5.6km run through Rivington Country Park followed by a 37.2k bike ride taking in local beauty spots and finishing with another 5.6km run.

And in twist competitors had to take part in teams of two, with penalties being issued if one of the pair was too far in front.

Watch Manager at Bolton Central Fire Station Ian Ainsworth was among those taking part.

Mr Ainsworth, aged 53, who lives in Horwich, said: “This is the fourth time I have taken part in this. I’ve only missed one.

“I do it as part of keeping fit and my training.”

Others used it as a trial run for the up and coming Ironman Challenge in Bolton this summer.

Donna Cooper, aged 43, said: “I looked outside and thought ‘ oh no’ but it's a nice atmosphere.

“This is a really tough race and I’m just hoping I don’t go over on my ankle because we will be running over some really rough ground.

“This will give a chance to check my fitness levels.”

Some people  travelled miles to take part, including Joanne Forbes, aged 34, and Joanne Clarke, aged 42, from Glasgow.

Miss Forbes said: “We are of equal strength and supporting each other on the second run!”

Miss Clarke added: “It’s a tough physical challenge.”

The competitors were supported by the marshals, all of whom were volunteers, along the gruelling route.

Jo McWilliam, one of the race directors, said: “This is such a tough course and I think the people who do this are out of this world.

“I have done it and know what they are going through.

“If they choose the right partner it can be a tactical advantage as they can motivate each other.

“They are cheered by the marshals who encourage them.

"You have those who take part year after year and those who just want to have a go and to see them smile and carrying on after being cheered on by the marshals is the best part.”

She added: “The event has grown. We run it in conjunction with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and it has become more

popular with more people wanting to do it.”