Staffordshire shines as county turns out for Ironman endurance event

The Ironman endurance race was back in full effect in Stafford as tens of thousands of people turned out to watch athletes complete the challenge.

Ironman spectators ready for a dip in Chasewater
Ironman spectators ready for a dip in Chasewater

After three years of cancelled or restricted fields and spectators the global endurance event was back to its best, showcasing Staffordshire's scenery and attractions to millions of viewers across the world.

A field of 3,000 athletes were cheered on by more than 10,000 people lining the route, which finished in Stafford town centre.

Athletes swam 1.2 miles at Chasewater Country Park, cycled 56 miles through Staffordshire countryside and Cannock Chase then ran 13.1 miles alongside the River Sow, finishing in Stafford town centre.

Ben Goodfellow, from Wrexham, was the first athlete to cross the finish line in Market Square to rapturous applause and Emily Freeman, from Dorset, was the first female to finish.

Ironman winner Ben Goodfellow

One of the biggest cheers of the day was for Staffordshire athlete Andy Stone, known as Tri Andy, who is trying to break the world record of completing 70 triathlons in 70 days.

The recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict is undertaking the mammoth challenge of body and mind to raise money for mental health charity Mind, Alcohol Change UK, and Humankind, who run a Staffordshire treatment and recovery service.

Eccleshall's Andy Stone finished his 65th triathlon in as many days as part of his world record attempt

He said: "I still have another five triathlons to do after today. I've done 65. But to do it in my home town is amazing.

"I'm so used to doing them on my own but to have so many other people alongside me and so many local people supporting the athletes was brilliant.

"I am doing this for all the guys and girls who are struggling with addiction and mental health."

Andy's final triathlon is on Friday, June 17 and he has invited anyone who wants to join him on the day and to celebrate his world record at The Little George, Eccleshall.

Spectators cheering on an "amazing" athlete in Stafford for Ironman

Spectators had begun descending on the town for the biggest sporting event in the county for years from 7am.

Triathlons race for the bikes after their 1.2 mile swim

Andy Stokes, from Lichfield, took his two daughters to Stafford town centre to enjoy the spectacle.

He said: "I would have loved to have competed in this year's Ironman but I did the next best thing and came to the finish line to give all these amazing athletes our support.

"We went down to Chasewater to seeing the swimming practice and everyone was so friendly. This is such a brilliant event for Staffordshire, I just was not interested in the restricted Covid events, days like today is what it is all about. Stafford has been rammed all day and I'm glad the weather held out so all the people watching round the world will have got a brilliant view of Stafford Castle as the athletes went past.

Iron bladder: This triathlete held out until he saw a much needed outdoor loo on the course

"We went down to Chasewater to seeing the swimming practice and everyone was so friendly. This is such a brilliant event for Staffordshire, I just was not interested in the restricted Covid events, days like today is what it is all about. Stafford has been rammed all day and I'm glad the weather held out so all the people watching round the world will have got a brilliant view of Stafford Castle as the athletes went past.

A spectator gives an exhausted triathlete cramp relief

Stafford Councillor Victoria Wilson helped hand out the medals, which featured a special design incorporating Stafford Castle, and even got to present one to the leader of Staffordshire County Council.

The new Ironman medal reflected Staffordshire

Councillor Andy White finished the course in just over six hours and paid special tribute to the hundreds of volunteers who made the event possible.

Businesses in Stafford embraced the event enticing spectators with special Ironman deals and offers.

Management at Slaters bar posted on Facebook: "Show us your Ironman medal for 10 per cent discount off your first pint. Good luck to all those competing."

Drinkers at real ale pub The Bear had the perfect view with the finish line just metres from the premises. Taking advantage of the situation the pub posted on social media: "We are now open, all day, come and grab a drink and watch the action unfold."

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