Does Ironman UK still deserve its bad reputation?

I've done IM Wales and Outlaw. Lanza doesn't fit my lifestyle and I plain don't fancy Henley. So I keep on coming back to IM UK for 2013. It's just an hour's drive from home, has an interesting course and M-Dot cachet.

But practically nobody from here enters IM UK! It's a pirate-free zone with a reputation as positive as syphillis, Nick Clegg and shit sandwiches.

So does IMUK deserve the mucky PR, or is it a better race than commonly made out?



  • All I can say is that I did IMUK in 2010 and loved it.  I much preferred it to the Outlaw as it had a bigger event feel and I enjoyed running around Bolton....( well someone's got to!!)  But I accept that it was my first one and maybe everyone feels good about the first image

  • From what I can gather Barley and FB may be good candidates for some background info

  • Thanks Slim. That's reassuring. I expect FB will be along sooner or later, Schmunks, and I know Barley has "history" there. I guess AndyB would be another one with a view, given that he lives in a caravan half way up Sheep House Lane. To your point, KK..... if you ever take a look at that other tri forum.... image... the one on the dark side.... image they appear to have a more positive opinion.

  • Without wishing to re-open the floodgates, there was a bit of a falling out between certain forumites and the race organisers 'back in the day' which rather took the gloss off it.  There were also some logistical problems when the race first relocated to Bolton.  Certainly there have been Pirates who have competed in recent years and (steepness of hill on bike course not withstanding) I've not seen anything bad reported.

    Different set of race organisers now, so perhaps one day there may be a mass outing?

  • I too did IM UK in 2010, my first, and couldn't really fault it.  Split transition was a bit of a pain, not so much during racking, or the race, but just collecting kit after the finish, as it had to be done that evening.

    Organisation was excellent, and felt looked after, all things worked well.

    Only downside, and I only have Wales to compare it against, is that with the swim/T1, T2 and the finish all being in differing locations, then there wasn't the buzz, as there wasn't a central focalpoint.  In Wales, everything goes on in the same locaiton, and Tenby just feels alive during IM weekend, I didn't get that feeling on Bolton.

    However, I'll probably be back in 2013 for another go

  • I did it in 2010... Have to say I really enjoyed the bike course.... and I liked the fact the run was short !!!

  • M..TRIumphant wrote (see)

     Tenby just feels alive during IM weekend.

    Amen to that. The whole town went nuts. I thought I was going to get linched on the mara when I dropped into a walk outside one of the pubs image.

  • kittenkat wrote (see)
    Dave The Ex- Spartan wrote (see)

    I did it in 2010... Have to say I really enjoyed the bike course.... and I liked the fact the run was short !!!

    Gotta love those 5k marafuns.

    It wasn't that short you ........................................ !

  • I had a really bad day at the office for IMUK 2010, So I didn't really notice anything about the run... Other than Rosie letting me have a gulp of his guinness and the explosion in the portaloo that cured all my ills

  • I haven't been up to IMUK.but you never seem to get the idea its well supported by reading all the reports.......sounds like one man and his dog compared to other IM races..................when you pay the big bucks.its nice to get a big feel event...IMW support is brilliant.....

    if you are not fussed by the support then why not do one on the the ither 10 or so Ironman distance races in the UK which are much cheaper

  • I had a go in 2009, the first Bolton one. I tried not to be prejudiced in any way. Swim was alright, if 400M too long cos the buoys moved, bike was quite nice and a half decent course. transition was a fecking nightmare, well, the bit that wasn't invisible under water. I never made the run, I think I was stuck in the mud...

    I'd have a go in principle again, no it wasn't buttery smooth and I think there was a bit too much trading on the Mdot label. It was no better than an average club one with transition in a field, just a lot longer and overpriced tradesmen with a captive audience.

    The people of Bolton were great though and there was a lot of support as long as you were "in the pack". They pulled the marshalls and some signs early on the last lap of the bike and a few back markers got lost.

    I suppose at that money, you expect more. EG one thing I liked about Outlaw were the bike signs. One coming up to the junction to tell you where to go, one at the junction to confirm it and one after the junction so you know you were still going the right way. After X miles I need that repetition coz the brain has addled.   

  • oi - don't drag me into this!!   I've not done IMUK and not even been to the one 'oop Narth. 

    to expand a little on what Ferret said, I went to support the first IMUK when it was at Sherborne and frankly that was a bloody shambles with poor run course choice, poor organisation, and no light at some parts of the run when night fell which was downright dangerous.   the team that organised IMUK in it's earlier days (and before IM Europe took over the franchise) were pretty poor and couldn't take criticism - constructive or not - and would threaten legal action against anyone who openly criticised them.  as happened to a few Pirates who did the first IMUK which led to a general "ban" on supporting the race - a gesture of solidarity you could argue.  

    for many, that early episode led to a general downer on the event although I think most would recognise that it's improved a lot since it's now run by IM Europe and it hasn't stopped quite a few pirates doing it and enjoying it.


  • slowerthanilook wrote (see)

    he lives in a caravan half way up Sheep House Lane. 

    lol....thanks for that....proper made me laugh.

    i do have an opinion...and its a good on...i've done it twice and mrsB has done it this year (i only finished once btw as if you dont know)

    i know it had its problems in 2009 with the mud at T1 which they complained to United Utilities about who promptly told them to 'feck off then'...which led to split transition....which can be a pain but i think actually adds to the drama of the whole thing.

    The swim is at Pennington flash and they now have monday night and saturday morning swims there so thats a bonus

    they got it wrong once (though i wont admit this helped me and DONT believe it was wasnt right...WASNT!!!! basically the run is exactly the same course except you turn to the left instead of towards the finish when you hit the loop you go clockwise instead of AC


    for my money its a brilliant race...incredibly well supported and a tough bike ride (past my caravan 3 times)

    I'm doing wales this year thoughimage

  • If I may from a newbie point my decision is pure and simple money, ??250 is a lot for a race for me but ??375 is to much pressure to gamble on a very big challenge of an Ironman distance race. Which I believe is possibly why most Pirate newbies are going for outlaw over IMUK for their first IM distance
  • dont fancy coming down to enduroman STIL ?


  • Bolton is probably an hours drive from me.

    Instead of doing that I've raced all over Europe and even Nottingham !

    Continental races have great atmosphere and you can make a holiday out of it.

    Outlaw was a fantastic race with no split transition and great support and great routes.

    Bolton just doesn't tick any boxes for me.

    I've done plenty of MTB racing up there - but that run course always looks grim on the tv.

    Each to their own though.
  • I did IMUK in 2011 because I wanted to do the official IM in my own country and it suited some training partners due to less cost than traveling to europe. Four of us travelled up to do it and for the other three this was their first IM.

    Swim in the flash was ok, bike course was challenging but enjoyable BUT the run course was at least a mile short if not 1.5. Which is frankly unacceptable. How can you franchise the brand offer people a full IM experience and then do that? Surely measuring the distance is the absolute basic requirement. Jokers.

    For that reason alone I would not go back to IMUK. Yes the split transition was a faff but I would forgive that. Its an IM PB I always tag with "yeah but the run was short".
  • Can't critise IMUK because I've never done it or even spectated.

    But I had narrowed down my list of races for 2012 to two - IMUK and the Outlaw. (the two nearest)

    I've done IM Lanzarote so that M Dot thing was less important than nailing the distance.

    And I was happy that the course at Nottingham was going to be the right length. Especially the run which is a certified accurate 26.2 miles and that was very important to me.

    Other selling points for the Outlaw were the logistics, Nottingham second closest to home (2:20 drive) (Bolton only 60 mins) But having everything (camping, transition, registration, showers, food etc etc) all within a few hundred meters has got to be better than split transitions. (plus I'd had a chance to see how all that worked at the club relays so knew what was what)

    And obviously price is a major factor.

    The Outlaw won.



  • I did IMUK for my first in 2009, I loved it and thought the support was great. #

    tbh I was glad there wasn't loads of pirates there cos this was my challenge to myself and if I failed I didn't want a hundred people to see it image

    I also was able to stay at my mil s in Lancashire which made things much cheaper although since I am banned from her house now I cant see me doing Bolton again. Which is a pity cos I would.

    Outlaw was a very different experience, but I loved that too!

    Maybe I'm just easily pleased.

  • I'm considering Wales next year.


  • Ironman UK has got a bad reputation and thats not just among the pirates.  There are many people who hold the race in low regard and for many reasons.  I believe most of this stems from the previous organisers Chris and Ali Boon and frustrations with the organisation.

    IMUK organisation changed a couple of years ago and is now run by Kevin Stewart / Ironman Europe or whatever its called.  Kevin is obviously trying to make an impression and hopefully he'll succeed.  He was previously the race Director for London Triathlon.

    I cant honestly say whether IMUK still deserves its reputation, ive not been to there since I did the first one (Yeovil) in 2005, as others have said the first race didnt measure up to expectations.  What was worse, far far worse was that the organisers chose to take legal action (for defamation) against some people who criticised the race/organisers.  Many other examples of a Ratner'esk approach to PR followed and accounts from different people were widespread on various forums.  Year after year other accounts and criticism of the race and organisation continued and as such I think a lot of people have turned their back on IMUK.

    Personally im now ambivalent about IMUK, id have never gone near the race while the Boons were organising things and have in the past been very critcal.  Now there is a new race director and organisation ill no doubt give it another chance in a few years.  I know various people who've been to IMUK in recent years and have been relatively satisfied.

    I guess the other factor that some will consider is value for money.  Ironman races are expensive, in many cases rightly so.  Youre paying for a brand, professsionalism, big event feel and organisation and in many cases you get that, particularly at European races, in fact all the Ironman races ive done with the exception of IMUK 2005.  Despite the changes I still think if youre looking for the big event, full on Ironman experience IMUK has some way to go to deliver on those expectations, and with all the competition from other races (and reputation) its no wonder it struggles to pull in the entrants.  Sadly a lot of bridges have been burned by previous organisers

  • I think one of the other problems IMUK has is location.  it was bad enough when it was at Sherbourne which is basically in the middle of nowhere, and now it's in Bolton - where's that the international community ask??   Johnny Foreigner knows where London, Manchester etc are but Bolton???   that's why IMUK has never had a high number of non-UK competitors compared to the Euro events which attract high numbers from around the world as they are (almost without exception) in great locations with easy transport facilities and a big range of accomodation options.

    Bolton doesn't cut the mustard on many fronts - even Tenby beats it hands down for location and accomodation but is let down by ease of access.  and Tenby's timing brings the Europeans in as they see it as a Kona qualifier for the following year if they missed out on this year.  that's a selling point for Tenby.

    There has been ongoing rumours for years that IMUK would not stay in Bolton - and there's an ongoing rumour that IMW will not continue past the 3 years that it has funding from the Welsh government.   Which kind of leaves IM Europe in a position that they could cancel one, or both, and create a new single IMUK at a higher profile venue with better travel connections and with a bigger range of accomodation options.  Lots of locations have been suggested - even the possibility of them buying out Outlaw which is (kind of) now the premier LD event in the UK in a great location.   But then, they could move it somewhere completely differnt and it's not as if we don't have the venues in the UK to stage a much better IM experience for our home and foreign friends.

    Nice, Frankfurt, Lanzarote, Kalmar, Regensburg, Klagenfurt, Zurich - all big cities with great facilities.  and then you have Bolton and Tenby.  doesn't quite cut the mustard on the international scene eh??   


  • Spot on FB, location is a major factor, if IMUK was in the likes of Brighton (many other places) with a good repuation, travel connections, hotels it would pull in more people.  Perhaps its time for IMUK to refresh itself at another location.

    Not sure that Outlaw would be worth them taking over (think theyve already tried and been turned down?), main problem with Outlaw is the limited size for a big single wave start?  

    There's nothing like starting with 3000 people image

  • yep - right about Outlaw and numbers. you'd need a waved start (not a WTC preference) and the run course would struggle with many more runners as it's very narrow and tight in places.

    Brighton is one of the suggested places for a future IMUK - the problem is with a sea swim as the Channel weather can be a fickle beast any time of the year. get weather conditions right and it's fine; get it wrong and the whole event would suffer.   and there's no decent lake/reservoir close to the city if not a sea swim.  not a preferred choice imho.

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