A cyclist competes during the Israman race. (Photo: shvoong.co.il/Israman Negev)

Israel's version of Ironman mixes desert, beach and grit

Event is attracting competitors from all over the globe.

The world's first Ironman triathlon took place in Oahu, Hawaii, in 1978, but since then, the ultimate sports competition, which combines a 2.4-mile swim race, a 112-mile bike race and a 26.2-mile marathon, has inspired similar ultimate-endurance events all over the world.

One Ironman-like route whose stunning natural diversity is drawing thousands of participants from around the globe is Israel's Red Sea, an inlet in Israel's southern tip, which lies between Africa and Asia.

Israel's version of Ironman is called Israman, and it was ranked in the top 10 iron distance races in the world by Triathlete Magazine. Its participants swim in the Red Sea, bike along the rolling hills of the Negev Desert, and run along the beach to the finish line.

Swimmers in the Red Sea Competitors swim across the Red Sea. (Photo: Steve Stenzel)

The 2014 race, which took place this January for the 10th time, included more than 1,000 participants from 26 different countries. The next race is Jan. 30, 2015.

Last year’s winner, Petr Vabrousek from the Czech Republic, defended his title from 2013, finishing the course in 9 hours, 55 minutes, 31 seconds. 

“Israman is definitely one of the toughest (Ironman-inspired) races ... and the organization and atmosphere of the race is right on par with some of the major races today," Vabrousek told From the Grapevine. "This course is definitely not for the fainthearted.”

israman Israman 2014 winner Petr Vabrousek of the Czech Republic celebrates at the finish line. (Photo: Petr Vabrousek)

In addition to the Israman 226 – the full race of 226 kilometers (140 miles) – there is a half Israman of 113 kilometers (70 miles), an option for relays (even family relays), competition in age groups and even a children’s race, Israkids, for ages 8-13.

Alice Hector, a competitor from the United Kingdom, won the half Israman in 2014, on her first visit to Israel. She said of Israman: “Crystal clear water, cycling through mountainous regions and then a fast half marathon to finish ... It definitely is an event to remember and an experience to treasure.”

A video from the 2012 race:


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