Ironman Wales – age-grouper tale

Sophie Radcliffe converts to the Ironman, "Anything is possible"


On the 8th of September I completed Ironman Wales. It was one of the most challenging, yet also the best, days of my life. It was my first Ironman and my first marathon.


I was aiming to cross the finish line in one piece and with a smile on my face. When I crossed the line in 12hrs 56mins, bringing me to eighth position in my age group, it was the perfect result for me.

Ironman Wales is said to be the toughest race on the circuit, due mainly to the hills and unpredictable weather. The bike section took me seven hours, most of which I would describe as a suffer-fest. Torrential rain, wind and hills – I loved it.

This quote sums up my experience with Ironman:

“I say to people that the greatest danger in life is not taking the adventure. Mount Everest can be your garden or your shed or your wood. I see the whole of life as an adventure” – Brian Blessed

Journey to Ironman

The challenge of becoming an Ironman was not about the end result, but the journey to get there.

For me, the adventure began from the moment I signed up. It was the people I met, the things I learned and the ways I adapted my life to achieve my goal.

It’s about everything you’ve worked for culminating in one epic day when you battle it out over a long, tough course. When you put yourself to the test and see what you can deliver when it’s all to play for.

Ironman Wales – filled with highs, lows, pain, determination and pride – was an unforgettable day.

Appreciating the achievement

One of reasons I’m attracted to endurance events is the intensity of it all.

Over the 17 hours or less taken to complete an Ironman, you see, hear and experience a vast amount in comparison to an average Sunday. It’s a life-affirming experience.

When I think back to race day, I’m almost overwhelmed with the array of memories that come into my mind. The entire experience makes me feel happy to be alive.

It’s all too easy to take our achievements for granted and move onto the next goal. We are often in a rush to achieve something bigger, faster, further.

I’ve been guilty of doing exactly that after Ironman Wales, I’m goal-driven and without that focus I feel lost. This means that I crossed the line and very soon after asked myself, “What’s next?”

Thinking how I could shave valuable minutes, hours off my time and checking my bank balance to see if I can afford a new bike (sadly not!).

Setting new goals

There’s no denying it, triathletes are some of the most driven, focused and successful people I know, well-versed in the art of goal setting, time management and motivation. We live on the energy we get from our desire to accomplish our goals.

How do we ensure we have a healthy balance between appreciating what we achieve and challenging ourselves to find the next goal?

I think how, when and why we move onto the next challenge comes down to a personal choice.

However, it’s important that we do give ourselves time to absorb, appreciate and rest of course!

Moments to remember

If life is measured by the moments that take our breath away, it’s no surprise that I say becoming an Ironman was one of the best days of my life.

These are the moments that took my breath away on the 8th of September 2013. If you are tempted to try your first Ironman, I can’t recommend it enough.

…arriving at the beach at dawn with hundreds of supporters already lining the streets. The lifeguards were perched on their surfboards, silhouetted by the morning sky.

…1,600 athletes diving into the sea ready to fight for our dreams.

…cycling up Heartbreak Hill, the cheering and encouragement from the crowds made my smile grow with each turn of the pedals – it felt almost effortless.

…the IM team member in the bike-run transition who helped me change my socks and gave me courage when I felt completely exhausted and had no idea how I could go on.

…a hug from my husband as I came out of transition and headed up the long hill at the start of the marathon.

…feeling stronger with each lap on the run, thinking “I’m doing this, I’m feeling strong, I’m running this marathon!”

…crowds screaming my name as I ran through the cobblestone streets of Tenby, urging me to dig deeper.

…watching the sun start to set as I finished my fourth and final lap of the run, realising that I had been out all day, racing, non-stop. Amazing.

…the surge of power and energy I felt as I saw the Magic Carpet ahead of me. Paul Kayeman’s voice in my ears, saying: “It’s the Magic Carpet because it instantly transforms pain into pleasure.”

…the final sprint finish and crossing the line in sub 13 hours. “Sophie Radcliffe, You. Are. An. Ironman” blaring from the speakers.

…the feeling of the medal being placed around my neck and realising that I put myself to the test to fight for my dreams.

Anything is possible

The Ironman motto “Anything is possible” doesn’t just represent a race and a new goal ticked off my list. It represents a way of life, and the reason why I’ll be back again next year.

We want to set new goals not because we don’t value what we have achieved, but because the experience is addictive and we want more of the action. Bring on Ironman Wales 2014.

Help along the way

During my journey I partnered with Mark Kleanthous from Ironmate Coaching. Mark crammed his 35 years of triathlon experience into helping me learn and improve as much as I could in the eight weeks we worked together, and has been invaluable.

Sport Pursuit have given me the opportunity to represent their brand and mission. It’s a perfect match and I look forward to having their support for my future challenges.

I’d love to hear from you, please connect with me here:


Watch my Ironman video here: