Chrissie Wellington racing at Kona

World's best triathlons: 31 to do before you die

So you want to go out in style? You want to say, yep, done that and, without doubt, got the T-Shirt? But with so many races to choose from, how will your tri racing CV look when it’s time to shuffle off this mortal coil? Well, look no further! Here's our list of the world's best triathlons...

2. Ironman World Championships, Kona, Hawaii

Words really can’t do this one justice. Hawaii is the pinnacle of every triathlete’s dreams, or at least it should be. It’s the Big One on Big Island. You do an Ironman, you’re a hero; you do Hawaii, you’re worshipped. After all, this is where Ironman began. 

Back in 1977, US Navy Commander John Collins decided to put an end to the debate among friends about who was the fitter – swimmers, cyclists or runners. So he combined three of Hawaii’s biggest endurance races – the Waikiki Roughwater Swim (3.8km), the Around-Oahu Cycle Race (180km) and the Honolulu Marathon (42.2km) – to form the Hawaii Ironman. 

31 Ironman Hawaii highlights

On 18 February 1978, the first race took place in Honolulu, with 15 athletes starting and 12 crossing the finish line, each receiving a handmade trophy and a place in history. The first official champion was one Gordon Haller, in a time of 11:46:58. Fast forward almost 40 years and almost two thousand athletes from all over the world make the annual trip to the island in the Pacific, having either hit the jackpot through a lottery scheme or having qualified at one of a number of full or half Ironmans across the globe. Tens-of-thousands of triathletes vie for these spots every year. Only 1,800 succeed. 

How to qualify for Kona

Ironman World Championships in Kona: course and tactics

Kona is a place of world-beating feats of endurance; each event adding a new name to the events’ roll-call of honours. Hawaii has seen some of the greatest battles and moments in the sport’s history: the Iron war of ’89 between two of Hawaii’s legends - Mark Allen and Dave Scott; Paula Newby-Fraser taking her eighth title in 1996; Chrissie Wellington winning her first world title at only her second-ever Ironman. Because if it’s happened in Ironman, chances are it happened in Hawaii. Kona finisher Joe Beer sums it up perfectly: “If you haven’t done it, you haven’t lived.” 

The top 15 Kona greats of all time

Continue reading to find our winner and the world's best triathlon (31/31)


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