Germany's Patrick Lange and Switzerland's Daniela Ryf set course records at the 2018 IRONMAN World Championship in Kona.
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — The Big Island’s Kilauea Volcano had been actively spewing lava since May 3, but in the days before the IRONMAN World Championship, the cloudy, ash-covered sky above the Kona coastline cleared, giving way to crisp Hawaiian sunshine—and incredible results in the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run endurance race.
On Saturday, Germany’s Patrick Lange became the first-ever IRONMAN athlete to break eight hours in Kona, finishing in seven hours, 52 minutes, 39 seconds, supplanting his own overall course record from last year (8:01:40). In his IRONMAN debut in 2016, Lange finished third and cracked the 27-year old marathon course record set by the U.S.’s Mark Allen in 1989.
“It was a great honor,” Lange says of his victory. “This was my third attempt here, but I think this was the hardest. On the bike, my legs were there right away. … The run, I’m quite experienced now on this island—after 8K, I found my running legs and that clicked. I started to feel really good, and I just went for it.”
Lange took the lead just after the 10-mile mark on the marathon, and had gained a 2:09 bump on Belgium’s Bart Aernouts coming out of the race’s infamous Energy Lab, with seven miles remaining. Then, just a mile later, the German sensation increased that advantage to 3:00 over Aernouts. And Lange never looked back.
“The hardest part was out of the Energy Lab,” Lange says. “It was brutally hot … amazing, amazing hot.”
To boot, Lange’s manger, Jan Sibbersen, broke the age-group swim course record in 46:30 and shattered the 20-year-old record, previously set in 1998 by the U.S.’s Lars Jorgensen (46:41).
Following Lange to the podium of greatness was Aernouts (7:56:41) and Great Britain’s David McNamee (8:01:09). Both athletes finished the 140.6 miles of grueling physical endurance under Lange’s 2017 course record. Incredible.
Also reaching the finishing pack’s top five were the U.S.’s Tim O’Donnell (8:03:17) and New Zealand’s Braden Currie (8:04:41).
“I told myself, you didn’t train the last 10 months to be average,” McNamee says. “That mentally kept me in the race. It gets very exciting, but coming out to the Energy Lab, I think it’s the toughest I’ve ever had in this race.”
As Lange crossed the finish line, Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf was set to crush a record of her own, shattering her 2016 overall course record (8:46:46) by more than 20 minutes, finishing in 8:26:16.
Ryf’s four consecutive victories were summed up by a performance in this year’s competition that can only be described as mind-boggling. After being stung by a jellyfish, Ryf was down nine minute and 13 seconds coming out of the 2.4-mile swim. And she was trailing another 2018 record smasher—Great Britain’s Lucy Charles, who capitalized on a 48:13 swim, which was previously recorded in 1999 by the U.S.’s Jodi Jackson (48:43). But at the 87-mile mark of the bike, the “Swiss Miss” had made up four minutes and 20 seconds on Charles during the previous 20 miles. But that’s not all. Ryf passed Charles, and broke the women’s bike course record set in 1999 by countrywoman Karin Thuerig.
“What a day, I still can’t really believe what happened, I’m a bit speechless,” Ryf said afterwards. “I said before the race, ‘I want to make races that people remember.’ I think as a champion, you should never give up. That’s what IRONMAN racing is all about.”
Five other women also rode under Theurig’s previous record for the bike course: Charles (4:38:11), Great Britain’s Corinne Abraham (4:38:16), Canada’s Angela Naeth (4:42:26), Australia’s Sarah Crowley (4:43:09) and Germany’s Mareen Hufe (4:43:51).
“It felt a little bit like déjà vu from last year, but I gave it everything,” says Charles, who finished second overall in 2017. “I had nothing left at the end.”
Ryf climbed up to the winners’ podium with Charles (8:36:32) and Germany’s Anne Haug (8:41:57) by her side. Adding to the top five were the U.S.’s Sarah True (8:43:42) and Mirinda Carfrae (8:50:44). Charles, Haug and True all slid under Ryf’s 2016 overall course record.
“I wanted come here to learn,” Haug says. “I’m a rookie, and I think Kona is very extreme. You have to learn, and I definitely didn’t expect to get third.”
This year, nearly 300,000 professional and age group athletes attempted to qualify for the IRONMAN World Championship either through worldwide IRONMAN (full-distance) or IRONMAN 70.3 (half-distance) races, or by legacy or lottery. This year’s race boasted a field of approximately 2,500 athletes, representing 82 countries, regions and territories, on six continents.
The total 2018 prize purse was $650,000, which is divided in equal stipends between the men and women finishers, who place first through 10th. First place finishers are awarded $120,000 each.
“This is the 40th anniversary of the best race in the word,” Lange says. “I’m grateful to go with another win here. It was a great, great day out there. We were blessed. But by far, it wasn’t easy.”
2018 IRONMAN World Championship Insights
• Patrick Lange celebrated by proposing to his girlfriend, Julia Hofmann, at the finish line.
• Kyle and Brent Pease became just the second special team to ever finish the IRONMAN World Championship. The last team to do so was Dick and Rick Hoyt in 1999.
• Liz McTernan (GBR) became the second female hand cyclist to ever finish the IRONMAN World Championship—the last was Minda Dentler (USA) in 2013 (14:39:14). McTernan also now holds the fastest time for female hand cyclists (14:21:13).
• Hiromu Inada (Japan), at 85 and 11 months old, became the oldest competitor to ever finish an IRONMAN.