VICTORIA Square has been a hive of activity these last few days as the town prepares to welcome back the annual Ironman roadshow.

I have covered the event for the past few years and I can tell you that following these sporting masochists around the course, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run, is a marathon undertaking in itself.

All journalists are trained to ask six key questions when covering any story – who, what, where, when, why and how – and it is the why and how that remains a mystery to me when writing about the Ironman.

Competitors will very happily run through their training schedules, listing the dizzying amount of work and preparation that goes into getting their minds and bodies into the right shape.

But it is much more difficult to get a sane answer out of them, one that would make sense to a normal person at least, to explain their motivation.

It is a bit like asking a mountaineering enthusiast why they want to climb Everest – because it is there is the stock reply.

For those people, like me, who are happy to sit in their living rooms flicking between the golf and cricket this weekend, unmoved by the fact there is a big hill in Nepal they could be climbing instead, this answer does not really cut the mustard.

I have seen the pain etched on the faces of these brave men and women as they cross the finish line after putting themselves through between nine and 17 hours of hell.

Like many of the other thousands of spectators, I will be happy to raise a glass to their achievement this weekend, safe in the knowledge that I will never have to put myself through that torture.

Then there are those people like the Settle brothers – Joe and Andy – who will be taking part on Sunday after watching the Ironman competitors run past their family pie shop last year thinking: “I could do that.”

So many of the near 2,700 athletes in this year’s race will have gone through that same thought process. It makes no sense to me, but it is a mindset common to all professional sportsmen and women, who seem to share a steely resolve, competitive stubbornness and work ethic that propels them to go one step further than the rest.

As an avid armchair sportsman, I have come to accept these are personal qualities missing from my DNA. I was blessed with the lazy gene!

The Tour de France captured my imagination as a young boy. I used to be quite proud of myself if I managed to cycle up the hill outside by grandpa’s house without stopping, so to see someone like Miguel Indurain sprint up Alp D’Huez earned my respect.

Unlike Bury twins Simon and Adam Yates, who will be toughing it out with Chris Froome and the rest as they traverse the 21 hairpin bends up to same summit next week, I knew my limitations.

The inner drive inside every man and women who takes on the Ironman this weekend remains an enigma to me.

But, like the rest of the town, I will be in awe of their achievements, with the rock-solid proviso that it is rather them than me.