Hundreds brave scorching heat to compete in Staffordshire Ironman 70.3

Hundreds of people descended on Staffordshire to take part in the Ironman 70.3 event in the blistering heat.

Hugh Bradshaw came home first in the gruelling event
Hugh Bradshaw came home first in the gruelling event

It was the first large event taking place in Staffordshire since the coronavirus pandemic began – and Covid restrictions were still in place.

The race marked its return after being postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Around 1,000 athletes from across the UK and internationally took part in the triathlon – which took place on one of the hottest days of the year so far.

The challenge started with a 1.2-mile swim

The 1.2-mile swim took place at Chasewater Country Park, near Burntwood, at around 7am, before participants took part in a 56-mile cycle through parts of the Staffordshire countryside – before heading into Stafford along Tixall Road.

Then the half-marathon distance two-and-a-half loop run route starts at Riverway, in Stafford, and follows the River Sow path to the town centre and then on to Stafford Castle along the A518 Newport Road. It finished in the Market Square – where some crowds had gathered to cheer them across the finish line.

The 1.2-mile swim took place at Chasewater Country Park, near Burntwood

The first man across the finish line was Hugh Brashaw, who completed the course in four hours, seven minutes and 20 seconds. He was closely followed by Matthew Nelson at four hours, nine minutes and 54 seconds.

Mr Brashaw said: "I am so delighted, just want to say thank you so much to all the marshals out there on such a hot day, and a huge congratulations to Matthew Nelson in second who made it such a tough race.”

The cycle race was a tough 56 miles

The first woman to complete the course was Lydia Dant at four hours, 30 minutes and 33 seconds. She placed 21st overall.

The 30-year-old, from Cheltenham, who is trained by Passion Fit, said: "It's been really, really warm – but it's been a good day.

"I haven't done many races really, I only started properly training around three years ago. Then with the pandemic that was obviously a year off, but I carried on consistently training.

The heat was an extra challenge for the competitors

"It's really cool to be the first woman across the line – it hasn't really sunk in yet.

"You know today I loved every aspect of it, and that's never happened before.

"Being part of Passion Fit has changed my life, they saw the potential in me that I never saw in myself. My life has just turned around in so many ways, I’m so grateful for them.”

Tom Ward, also from Cheltenham, completed the course in four hours, 22 minutes and 35 seconds. He runs Passion Fit, which Lydia is also a member of.

Mr Ward, 44, said: "I don't normally race in the UK, as it's too cold for me. But it was alright, I haven't raced in about 18 months so it was a bit of a shock to the system.

Lydia Dant was the first woman over the line

"But it was ok, it was really well organised, it couldn't have been organised better actually. And the heat was alright, I like the heat so it was ok. It was really good. I tend to do more of my races abroad.

"I'm a coach, so I've got about eight guys out here racing too. My wife and I coach, she's out there racing too. It's called Passion Fit.

"This is my first proper race since Covid. It's a relief to be back and it's exciting. Honestly, it's just nice to be back in this environment. The comradely is quite unique, and I think we have all missed that part of it. The atmosphere they create, we have missed it.

"I think I enjoyed the swim the most, so after 35 minutes my favourite bit was over."

Lee Thomas, from Lichfield, was delighted to complete the race

Lee Thomas from Lichfield completed the course in five hours, four minutes and 49 seconds – beating his previous best time in the Ironman 70.3 race of six hours and 12 minutes. Mr Thomas, aged 32 years old, is an area manager with Stafford Borough Council partner's Freedom Leisure.

He was completing the race on behalf of the council – and had been in first place in his age category after the swimming leg of the triathlon.

He said: “I am really, really pleased with how it went and to have beaten my previous result.

"It was a tough day in the heat but big thanks to all the supporters for cheering us on along the route. I started off really well and it was great to have won the swim.

"It was nice to compete under the Stafford Borough Council banner and I hope to be back next year. Big thank you also to the volunteers around the course who help make this event such a success.”

The heat was felt by many of those taking part, including the winner

Adam Fieldhouse, from near Taunton, finished in four hours, 40 minutes and 23 seconds. The 24-year-old said: "I found the heat ok. On the bike it was very windy.

"The run was really difficult, probably the hardest run I have ever done. I was just getting slower and slower.

"This is the first triathlon I've done – I do a lot of Ultra Running. I've only just started cycling again so I was surprised.

"It was a shock – but it was great to be back."

Staffordshire County Council leader Alan White said: “It’s been fantastic to welcome so many athletes to Staffordshire who have all done so well over a gruelling event and particularly in such warm weather.

"After a year’s absence due to the pandemic, it has been great to see Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire return, with participants and their families coming to enjoy the county, many for the first time."

Rebecca Sutherland, race director, added: "The atmosphere in Staffordshire was amazing. We are grateful to the whole community for making the athletes and the team feel so welcomed."

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