How the 10IronWomen are reducing the gender divide in long-distance triathlon

What better way to celebrate International Women's Day than by watching a new film about the 10IronWomen as they take on the Castle to Coast Triathlon in a bid to break down gender barriers to endurance sport…


The women’s endurance sports community, 10IronWomen, has released a documentary that sets out to explore the gender divide in long-distance triathlon and encourage more women to sign up and take part.


In conjunction with Friction Collective and Fullsteam events, the film follows the group’s lead up to the Castle to Coast Triathlon, which, unlike most triathlons, doesn’t pitch itself as a competitive event.

This was particularly important for the 10IronWomen who also wanted to highlight accessible endurance events to women in the UK.

“[Fullsteam’s] Lee Brown is sort of pioneering that by having these really inclusive events that aren’t about cut-off times,” says 10IronWomen’s Sarah Curtis. “They’re really trying not to be competitive and they encourage you to take part with your friends. I think those are really great ways for women to get into triathlon because it’s just a lot less scary.”

Long-distance triathlon is currently an 80% male-dominated sport. With this in mind, the documentary, which you can watch below, delves into the fears of being an outsider due to race or gender identity, and contends with the idea of failure. It also shines a light on what it takes to go from casual sports participant to ultra triathlete.

“It’s about breaking down barriers you have in your mind, of what you can or cannot do,” says 10IronWomen member, Pilvi Tuulia.

Who are the 10IronWomen?

Rowann, left, embraces 10IronWoman teammate, Pilvi, having both just completed the Castle to Coast Triathlon. (Credit: Friction Collective)

The 10IronWomen was started by psychotherapist Sarah and scientist, Rowann Bowcutt in 2018. The two friends both wanted to give long-distance triathlon a go but struggled to see themselves fitting into the image of an ‘Ironman’ athlete.

Speaking with friends, who between them swam, cycled and ran but hadn’t ever put all three disciplines together, they decided to combine their skills and support for each other to form the 10IronWomen group on Instagram.

What started as a small idea between friends has since developed into a much more powerful movement to help encourage and support women to take part in endurance sport.

“From what we hear, women are more likely to sign up [for a race] when they feel they’re supported,” says Sarah. “They need that group of people, and that’s certainly true for us. I think we’d all say we wouldn’t have signed up to Ironman Barcelona in 2019 without each other.

“But a lot of people don’t have those friendships and don’t have those groups or connections, so they can come and join us and then they’ll make those friendships and this makes it more likely for them to sign up. It’s about the community.”

Almost five years on, with multiple Ironmans and triathlons under their belt, the 10IronWomen now number almost 100, actively-competing triathletes.

What are the 10IronWomen’s goals? 

The overarching goal for the group is to achieve a 50-50 gender split at an Ironman race.

“We initially set the bar high on purpose, explained Rowan. “It might not be achievable this year, but it’s definitely achievable, and I think we’re making the right progress to get there.

“We’ve built the momentum already and we’ve got over 50 women just with 10IronWomen signed up [to Ironman Barcelona on 1 October], which is awesome. But for 50-50, we need 1,500 women. So there’s a way to go, but we’re making progress for sure.”

How can I join 10IronWomen? 

“We’re not a closed group, we’re not a traditional membership-style club, so we’re open to anyone,” says Sarah. “Anyone should feel that they can reach out to us and join if they want to.

“We sometimes get messages from people asking, how can I join? And I’m like, oh, you just did! You’re in!”

To be in, simply head to the 10IronWomen Instagram page.

Watch 10IronWomen – Breaking Down Barriers In Long Distance Triathlon

The 10IronWomen competing at the Castle to Coast Triathlon. (Credit: Friction Collective)

As well as encouraging more women to take part in long-distance triathlons, Sarah, Rowan and director Josh Williams believe the film carries several other key messages that are relevant to society as a whole.

“I think for me, [a key message] is how important it is to embrace diversity, in all aspects,” says Rowan. “Not just women, but women from different backgrounds or gender non-conforming people, because, well, diversity’s great, right?

“They bring different perspectives and you’ll have a richer and a better race and event if you’re actively encouraging people to participate”

For Sarah, whose own race at the Castle to Coast Triathlon didn’t exactly go to plan, she hopes the film will make it clear that results don’t matter.

“I think a lot of women don’t take part because they think they’re not going to be quick enough or they think that they’ll be at the back. So the fact that, unfortunately for me, my race didn’t go to plan, they will see that it was okay. It didn’t take away from the achievement of it and it was still a really great experience.”

The documentary’s director, Josh Williams, adds: “I think just the fact that these women have all come together to create such a supportive community and space is inspiring for anyone, outside of triathlon, or even outside of sport. I thought that was really cool. It’s something that people can take into whatever they do as well.”


Top image credit: Friction Collective