Ironman triathlon is the ultimate challenge

We are constantly reminded that running a marathon is one of the most challenging and rewarding events.

It is a distance set to take us beyond our comfort zone, into a realm in which we must confront the limitations of both body and mind. You must be disciplined. The event demands respect. You carefully plan and execute a specific training routine over weeks of preparation. I am sure you will also buy flash new trainers, get some tunes for the ipod, maybe even make the ultimate sacrifice and give up the drink for two months.

Well, in addition to your marathon goal, let me throw an idea out there. The Ironman triathlon consists of a swim, bike ride and run. The run is a marathon. The swim is 2.4 miles open water. And the bike is 180km. The idea for the original Ironman Triathlon arose during the awards ceremony for the 1977 Oahu Perimeter Relay in which participants, including Mid-Pacific Road Runners and Waikiki Swim Club, debated which athletes were more fit, runners or swimmers. It was also pointed out by a US Navy Commander that an article in the magazine Sports Illustrated had declared that Eddy Merckx had the highest recorded "oxygen uptake" so perhaps cyclists were the fittest. Anyway, to settle the argument, a long-distance competition was arranged, combining three existing races on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Thus the Ironman was born.

Therefore, to take on a challenge like the marathon but in a sport which is a bit easier on the knees, you have to bike 180km - or in the windswept Southland region, I think 150km would suffice.

And, look, there is a Great Southern Cycle Challenge on Saturday November 1, (a day before the Tour of Southland madness, very topical indeed) in which individual riders can do a 150km race or ride (and recreational teams can even compete as four riders in a relay). Plus you get the added feel-good factor of the ride being organised by the Rotary Club of Invercargill South in aid of the St John's Health Shuttle.

So with all the excitement of the cycling in the Commonwealth Games getting you excited about the sport and whether you're a weekend rider, a first-timer, elite or enduro, a Tour de France enthusiast from the safety of the living sofa or just looking for a weekend challenge, this is a cycle challenge for you. Might be worth a Google search this afternoon?

Nick Longworth is Cycling Southland's development officer.

The Southland Times