IRONMAN UK is back for three spectacular days. Saiqa Chaudhari speaks to two competitors.

FOR the past months, athletes have put themselves through a punishing training schedule to compete in Ironman UK.

It is no exaggeration that preparing for one of the toughest Ironman competitions in the world takes over your life.

“At first when you start training you do have a balance but in the last few months it is training, work, sleep ­— there is nothing in between,” said Helen Warwick who will be taking part in her first Ironman UK.

Now the training is over and the whole of Bolton is preparing to greet thousands of athletes, their families and visitors for a three-day Ironman sporting spectacular.

The town is gearing up for its first 5k Night Run tonight; the world’s largest Ironkids race tomorrow ­— and the highlight of the weekend Ironman UK triathlon on Sunday.

Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh, said: “Ironman is always a fantastic weekend and this year will be no exception.

“It is brilliant that this year we have a new race in the mix with Night Run. The addition of the Festival Zone in Bolton town centre will also create a real party atmosphere.

“We are expecting lots of extra people in town in the run up to the weekend, especially as registration for all the events and race briefings is in the Albert Halls.

“Many of our restaurants and shops will be displaying stickers in their windows to show their support and special offers.

“I would urge the people of our wonderful borough to do what they do best – and give all our visitors a proper Bolton welcome!”

Ironman UK Race Director, Sam Brawn, added: “We are set for a great weekend in Bolton.

“There are amazing activities for the entire family. With the addition of the Night Run and the continuation of the largest Ironkids race, there is something for everyone to enjoy throughout the weekend.

“We are also really proud that Ironman UK was selected to be an Ironman Military Division Qualifier and even more exciting, this will be the first year that we will get to crown our very own UK Military Division Champions.”

Ironman UK Bolton welcomes Ironman UK for the 11th time in its 15-year history. And 1,900 athletes aged 17 to 70 will be part of the action.

The Ironman UK triathlon gets underway at 6am, on Sunday, with a 2.4-mile swim at Pennington Flash, before athletes complete a 112-mile bike ride.

For the first time in the history of Ironman, athletes will cycle into Bolton town centre. The new bike course will see athletes cycling along Chorley New Road, passing Queens Park, coming into Bolton town centre, on to Le Mans Crescent before heading to Bury via Folds Road and Tonge Moor Road.

The marathon route will take place in and around Bolton town centre and Queens Park, with the finale on Victoria Square, finishing against the backdrop of Bolton town hall.

Helen is a member of Tri-Rivington, a club which has the greatest number of athletes taking part in whole of Europe.

The 45-year-old from Horwich has been training since September after deciding to take on a new challenge. Now she cannot wait for Sunday to come.

Helen, who is a school alternative curriculum manager, said: “This is my first full Ironman, I have done two halves. In 2017 I ran 5k every day for the same charity I am doing Ironman UK for and it broke me so I took a year off.”

After keeping up with her fitness doing a few triathlons, she set her sights on Ironman UK in September. Training began.

“I moved up from the Midlands in 2013 and have always watched it and now I can’t for Sunday to get out there because my training is now over.”

And said Helen she can’t think of a better group she has been supported by.

“Tri-Rivington have been second-to-none, some have done if before, and they are so supportive," she said, “They are all around the course on the day supporting those who are doing it.”

strongest on the bike ride but this year it is going to be tough so it will be the swim and I love swimming.”

Helen said she will be looking forward to a lie-in and not having to get up early for training every weekend.

“I am really looking forward to going a bike ride for fun,” said Helen, who is raising money for the charity Campaign Against Living Miserably.

Also taking part in Sunday’s gruelling triathlon is Craig Vickers.

The PE lead at The Valley School in Astley Bridge has watched the gruelling race for years go by his house in Heaton and on Sunday he will be part of it.

And the 45-year-old is raising money for two causes close to his heart, the charity AMEND, which funds research into genetic conditions which members of his family have and Heaton Cricket Club, were his children play.

“I have seen it year after year and I have done triathlons and am a member of a fantastic club, Tri-Rivington with the coaches and colleagues being so inspiring and after doing triathlons this is the ultimate ambition and to do it in your home time. I am feeling nervous, excited its a mix of emotions.”

Supporting him around the track will be pupils as well as his family.

And like his fellow teammate, he describes the bike course challenging ­— and very nearly made him think twice.

“I have trained for all three, but spent most time on the bike ­— but this is my first marathon!"

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