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Participation and performance trends in ultra-triathlons from 1985 to 2009


Corresponding author: Beat Knechtle, Facharzt FMH für Allgemeinmedizin, Gesundheitszentrum St. Gallen, Vadianstrasse 26, 9001 St. Gallen, Switzerland. Tel: +41 71 226 82 82, Fax: +41 71 226 82 72, E-mail:


We examined the changes in participation and performance trends in ultra-triathlons, from the Double Iron (7.6 km swimming, 360 km cycling, 84.4 km running) to the Deca Iron (38 km swimming, 1800 km cycling, 422 km running), between 1985 (first year of a Double Iron) and 2009 (25 years). The mean finish rate for all distances and races was 75.8%. Women accounted for ∼8–10% of the ultra-triathlons starters. For Double and Triple Iron, the number of finishers per year increased, from 17 to 98 and from 7 to 41, respectively. In the Deca Iron, the finishers per race have remained <20 since the first event was held, up to 2009. Concerning World best performances, the men were ∼19% faster than the women in both the Double and Triple Iron, and ∼30% faster in a Deca Iron. With the increasing length of ultra-triathlons, the best women became relatively slower compared with the best men. Further investigations are required to understand why this gender difference in total performance time increased with the distance in ultra-triathlons.