Thousands of athletes from more than 50 countries woke up in the early hours today ready to take part in what is billed as one of the toughest triathlons in the world - Bolton's Ironman UK.

The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement as hundreds of competitors - many from Bolton  - and supporters made their way to the water ahead of a fantastic day.

The Bolton News: Ironman UK begins with the swimIronman UK begins with the swim

Just as athletes were about to take to the water - a cool 18.3 degrees - the weather took a turn for the worse with torrential rain pelting down, but the weather brightened up for the second leg of the triathlon.

Families and friends cheered and clapped at the side whilst athletes took to the water.

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Danny Neale, 38, attended the event in support of pal Daniel Cross.

He said: "I'm here to support my bestfriend Dan Cross, he loves this kind of event and he's been training for the best part of a year.

"He's really looking forward to it."

The Bolton News: Making a splash in Pennington Flash, Ironman UKMaking a splash in Pennington Flash, Ironman UK

Susan Deakin, aged 44, was also present at the event in support of her husband, Jason. They are from Stalybridge.

She said: "I'm here to support my husband Jason Deakin, I'm very proud of him.

"This is his first time here and he has been training for about three years, so it's drove me mad now, I'm ready.

"I feel like I'm ready to do the Ironman, Jason is quite motivated he couldn't wait for it to be over, about last week he wanted it to go ahead, so he's keen."

Athletes from more than 50 countries came to the event, with the top countries including Belgium, France, USA and Great Britain.

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The youngest contestant to take part was aged 18 and the oldest aged 74.

Charlie Collins, 62, from Glasgow, was among Sunday's competitors and has been taking part for the past four years.

He said: "I've been doing them now for quite a while so, it's actually my fourth time here.

"It's challenging that's for sure, the swims nice and the run is so so but the bikes challenging.

"I got second in 2019 but chances of getting first, no probably not."

Ambulance, police and safety teams were in attendance, with teams in canoes on the water making sure everyone completed the swim safely.

More than 1,000 supporters gathered to watch the athletes take to the water.

The 2.4 mile swim was over in a flash with British man Thomas Mills first out of the water in a rapid speed of 53 minutes 27 seconds.

Whilst the first woman out of the water was Dee Allen at one hour and five minutes followed closely by Rachel Kenny at one hour seven minutes.

Athletes were neck in neck getting to the cycling section in a bid to be crowned an Ironman.