I AM sure the thousands of Boltonians who lined the route of this year’s Ironman UK will, like me, have been impressed by the feats of human endurance.
For those on the outside of this freakish sporting clique, it is hard to comprehend just how these exceptional men and women put their bodies through such punishment and live to tell the tale.
The prospect of following a 2.4-mile swim with a 110-mile bike ride and a 26-mile run is incomprehensible to me.
I have always harboured a secret ambition to one day complete a marathon, but for Ironmen competitors it is just something they tag on to the end of their event.
Sunday was my third time covering Ironman UK for The Bolton News. As in previous years, the sight of these guys stumbling over the finish line stirred up emotions that hovered between amazed and appalled.
The pros, as you would imagine, have a little more composure, but as one competitor said, it doesn’t matter how well prepared you are, no-one in the race ever quite knows how their body will react.
Some professionals, for example, can clock a time under nine hours and be perfectly capable of conducting an insightful interview – often not in their mother tongue – within seconds of crossing the finish line.
Others collapse or lose their legs as soon as they stop and have to be carted away in a wheelchair. Then there are those, like second-placed Joe Skipper, who do their best to oblige the press despite obviously needing to lie down in a dark room.
Joe spent five minutes chatting to me, while panting uncontrollably and suppressing the urge to throw up.
I swear he must have regurgitated then swallowed his lunch at least three times while I pressed him for his “feelings” on just missing out on victory.
I wound up the interview with new-found respect for the bravest – and possibly most stupid – sportsmen on the planet.
Then I spoke to 55-year-old Bolton teacher David Clamp, who finished in just under 10hrs 50mins to win his age-group race and clinch a place in the world championships later this year.
During the interview he calmly revealed that, after the world championships in Hawaii in October, he will be going on to Mexico to attempt 10 Ironmen in 10 days.
It turns out that “Clampy” has also completed a double, triple and even a decca Ironman. I looked that up, just to be sure, and yes, you’ve guessed it, it is 10 times the distance of Ironman UK.
On further investigation, I find out there is such a thing as a triple decca Ironman, which is a 72-mile swim, 3,360-mile bike ride and 786-mile run.
I can’t begin to imagine how a triple decca could ever be possible, but I guess the more pertinent question is not how it can be done, but why?