Our Ironman triathlon beginner’s guide will get you up to speed with long course racing

Ironman World Championship - Mirinda Carfrae

Mirinda Carfrae won the 2013 Ironman World Championships, but finish line elation is universal in Ironman (Photo Nils Nilsen/Ironman)

Ironman is arguably the most challenging single day endurance event in the world, consisting of a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike ride and a 42.2km run.

Perhaps you’re thinking of taking the plunge in 2014 – it could be your first ever triathlon or perhaps you’ve been building your way up through the other triathlon distances. Either way, it’s a huge undertaking with the promise of enormous highs once you cross the finish line.

As an Ironman first-timer your primary concern should be on completing the event in one piece with just enough energy to bask in the pure unadulterated glory that YOU are now an Ironman.

First held in 1978, the Hawaiian Ironman quickly became an iconic event and has spawn a series of long-course triathlons – and half Ironman races – that span the globe.

There are a few things you’ll need on your path to Ironman: a good level of fitness (or the time to build one); a love of the outdoors; bags of mental toughness; and motivation!

Getting a good pair of running trainers, a bike that fits you, a helmet, a decent wetsuit and goggles are the first steps to success. Read our extensive gear reviews to help you decide which equipment is best for you.

As a beginner, it’s important to structure your training, building up gradually over time to avoid injuries, particularly during running training. Following an Ironman training plan can be a great way to make sure you’re doing enough, but not too much. Always listen to your body though, if you’re aching and fatigued, your body needs a rest day or two to recover. These days ‘off’ give your body time to recover and adapt to the training, making you stronger.

As a general guide, you’ll want a phase of building endurance – typically longer, lower intensity sessions – before working on power and speed as your event gets closer.

112 miles is a long way on the bike, so getting off and running naturally feels odd. To get used to this plan plenty of brick sessions into your training to better help you adjust on the big day.

Ironman races take no prisoners, so it’s a great idea to join a club or enlist the help of a professional coach to help you maintain motivation and progression.

Our 25 beginner’s Ironman tips should also help to make you first ironman-distance triathlon a success.

In terms of which event to enter, you’re spoilt for choice with Ironman and iron-distance events taking place in all corners of the globe. Some of the most exotic and popular destinations include Melbourne, Switzerland and Lanzarote.

It might seem a long way away now, but race day will creep up on you with alarming speed. Book well in advance and make sure you’ve got the support of loved ones – they will have to make plenty of sacrifices as well in order for you to get to the start line.

A dream of many Ironman athletes is to make it to the start line in Kona, Hawaii, where the Ironman World Championships are still held every year in October. The event is by qualification only and is the ultimate race for Ironman professionals and seasoned Age-Groupers alike.