Ironman race comes to Bolton 

Neil Mercer, first Boltonian, to cross the finish line
Bolton's Iron man Neil Mercer was the first Boltonian to cross the finish line

Thousands turned out to show their support for athletes competing in the Ironman UK triathlon in Bolton on Sunday, August 1.

Spectators lined the streets to watch as 1,100 competitors, from more than 30 countries, took on the gruelling 140.6 mile challenge.

This year’s race, which came to Bolton and the surrounding region for the first time in 2009, took athletes on a new route.

The event started with a 2.4-mile swim in Pennington Flash, in Leigh; followed by a 112-mile bike ride in and around Lancashire, with a 26.2-mile marathon in the streets of Bolton, finishing with a heroes’ welcome in the town centre.

The race was won by Fraser Cartmell, aged 28, from Scotland. He finished the race in eight hours, 40 minutes and 23 seconds, in front of a huge crowd outside Bolton Town Hall.

He said: “It feels amazing, I’m really pleased. This was a huge goal for me and it means a lot to win. The Bolton people have been brilliant, everyone’s been so helpful, really friendly and welcoming.”

The fastest woman was 30-year-old Yvette Grice from Eastbourne, with a time of 10 hours, one minute and two seconds. It was Yvette’s first Ironman victory.

She said: “I’m pretty tired, it was absolutely fantastic and it really hasn’t sunk in yet. I really enjoyed it, the atmosphere was brilliant. The crowds have been really supportive and the Bolton public really got behind us when we were running.”

And the biggest cheer of the day went to 45-year-old fire fighter Neil Mercer, who repeated his achievement from 2009 as the first Bolton athlete to cross the finish line. He finished in thirteenth place overall with a time of nine hours, 44 minutes and 31 seconds.

He won the age 45 to 49 category and his performance was even more amazing as he has been battling a hamstring injury.

Neil said: “I’m ecstatic, I’ve beaten my personal best by nine minutes. I’ve not run properly for the last six weeks so I’m really pleased and glad I’m not injured for the final in Hawaii.

“Everyone knows me by name and been shouting for me all the way. Their support has been fantastic.”

Thirty qualifiers from Ironman UK in Bolton will compete in the Ford Ironman World Championship on October 9 in Kona, Hawaii.

Councillor Ismail Ibrahim, Bolton Council’s Executive Member for Development and Regeneration, said: “It’s great that so many people have come out to support the athletes. International events such as these raise Bolton profile and help the local economy.”

Chris Boon, Ironman UK race owner, added: "The event has been really successful and we'd like to thank the Bolton people for their support, which has been fantastic for all the athletes."

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Salma Nakhuda
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