• Seasoned Ironman campaigner Liz Blatchford would like to see women's participation lift to 50 per cent (AAP)Source: AAP
Ironman and Women For Tri are striving for 50 per cent female participation at Ironman Western Australia held in the beautiful beach side town of Busselton; a benchmark that has never been achieved before at an Ironman event.
Stef Hanson

10 Aug 2016 - 7:52 AM  UPDATED 10 Aug 2016 - 7:59 AM

Typically speaking, the longer the triathlon distance, the smaller the percentage of women participating. Currently the average percentage of women racing Ironman events, that’s a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run, and yes that’s all in one day, sits at 20 per cent globally.

Three-time Ironman Cairns champion, Liz Blatchford believes that women underestimate themselves and what they can achieve when it comes to triathlon. “In general I believe women may be more hesitant to enter an Ironman than males for a number of reasons,” she said.

“I think the men have more of a blind faith in their ability whilst women are less confident and doubt themselves more than they should. This is a generalisation for sure, but definitely something I have observed. Both first timers and women who have competed in shorter distance triathlons, with the right preparation, would achieve more than they probably believe is possible.

"Personally I’d love to see more women compete in Ironman events. The whole Ironman journey (cliche I know) empowers you on so many levels and is definitely not something to be afraid of.”

So in a bid to encourage more women to sign up for long course triathlon, Ironman and the Women For Tri board are striving for 50 per cent participation at this year’s full Ironman Western Australia and Ironman 70.3 Western Australia (1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run). These races are being run concurrently on December 4.

Initiatives include:

  • $10 of every female Ironman registration fee to be donated to the W4T Grant Fund
  • Witsup Breakfast and Pro Panel – Witsup is a dedicated platform that supports women in triathlon and pushes to break down barriers of entry into this sport
  • Expert women’s specific race course commentary by Witsup
  • Organised pre-race female group training sessions
  • Pre-race webinars
  • Ironkids – Striving for 50 per cent female participation

Athletes and spectators will also be asked to "light up the night" with special glow sticks at the 8pm women’s hour in a show of support for female participation in triathlon creating a stunning finish line and race course spectacle.

“I think this is a wonderful initiative,” said Australia’s three-time Ironman World Champion, Mirinda Carfrae.

“I'd love to see an Ironman event with 50/50 participation. It would have been more impactful if they had rolled this initiative out at the same time they opened entries for the event, but better late than never. If nothing else it brings attention to the fact that Ironman is still a male dominated sport and I think it's great that they are bringing attention to this and trying to find ways to encourage more female participation.”

Blatchford, whose family resides in Western Australia, thinks that this event would the perfect race for those wanting to take on their first Ironman. “Ironman Western Australia is one of the more “mild” Ironman events. I’m not going to say easy because there is no such thing as an easy Ironman!” Blatchford explained.

“This event offers a wetsuit swim, which helps you float, generally non-extreme weather conditions, a fast and flat bike course and a flat run course with great spectator support. Trust me, these things make a difference when you’ve been out there for 10+ hours!”

While Ironman Western Australia is a great first timers race, it’s important for those thinking of signing up for an Ironman, to take part in short course triathlons first and then build and prepare for the full Ironman distance.

“There is absolutely loads of potential to grow women's participation in Ironman racing, but I would never suggest a complete newby sign up for an Ironman event,” Carfrae said.

“I always encourage people to try short course triathlons before taking on the massive challenge of an Ironman. I think people who are best prepared have better experiences at Ironman events and therefore are more likely to want to do a second and third one.”

Ironman Western Australia has averaged 22.5 per cent female participation in the past, which is slightly above the global average. The most any other Ironman event has achieved is 31 per cent at Ironman Chattanooga.

Currently, registration numbers for the full Ironman have surpassed the average for Ironman Western Australia, and the Ironman 70.3 Western Australia registrations are around 40 per cent female participation.

If you’re on the fence about signing up, jump off that fence and land firmly in the Busselton backyard to be a part of triathlon history.

For all the latest #WomenInSport articles, videos and updates at SBS Zela like us on Facebook and Twitter