Friday Reads – You are an Ironman  

I’m going to take a brief break this week from writing about the Booker Prize longlist nominees, to blog about a book I just finished reading instead. You Are An Ironman: How six weekend warriors chased their dream of finishing the world’s toughest triathlon by Jacques Steinberg.

For one year, Steinberg followed six triathletes as they trained for their first Ironman, Ironman Arizona. The reader is introduced to the triathletes, to their entry into the sport and reasons for doing triathlon. One was told by his doctor that if he didn’t get fit he would almost certainly have a heart attack and could even die. One had survived several bouts of cancer. One was the wife of an Ironman who had had a double lung transplant. Another was a teacher, struggling on a low salary to set a good example to his kids. Another, a nurse, working very long, difficult and erratic shifts, with kids. All, just normal people, who for their own individual reasons decided in 2008 to sign up for the next year’s Arizona Ironman.

The book follows their training throughout that year, through their tune-up races, their injuries and crashes, mental doubts and moments of confidence. None of them have a perfect year of training, all have setbacks, all questions whether they will be able to do an Ironman. And then the book takes us through their individual races, from jumping into the cold water to finally crossing that finish line. 

I did enjoy the book – it was a nice easy read that I read quite quickly. But I wouldn’t say it was life-changing, or gave me any real tips on how to do an Ironman. I didn’t even think I was that emotionally involved in the triathletes, until I got to the end, when the last one crossed the finish line:

You are an Ironman.” Mike Reilly hadn’t even waited for Bryan to cross before he said it. But as soon as Reilly did say it, Bryan thrust both his fists high in the air, crossed under the arch, and fell into the arms of a volunteer who had pushed her way to the front of the line of so-called catchers, so that she might have the privilege of embracing him first.

It was Debbie.

Bryan held his wife in a tight clutch, his hands wrapped all the way around her back.

As they both wept, Bryan could only muster three words:

“I did it”. 

Then I actually had tears come into my eyes! If you enjoy reading blogs about people’s training and race recaps, you’ll really enjoy this book – even if you have no desire ever to do an Ironman. If you are looking for a book with some training advice or deep insights – this is not for you!

Did it inspire me to want to do an Ironman? Well, not really – I already knew I wanted to do one at some point. And the race day sections weren’t as detailed as I’d like; I’ve read better race reviews on blogs that really make you want to go and do the race. But it did make me realise that this is definitely something that is in my future – it made me realise that it is something anyone can do – you don’t need to be some super-special, super-fit athlete (at least when you start training!) to train for and compete in an Ironman.

Overall opinion? The book was good but it could have been great. It could have been filled with some of the amazing, inspiring moments in training – beautiful views, discovering new places through really long rides, deep conversations that only happen while you run. Instead it was very factual and so, while interesting, just slightly less inspiring than it could have been!


  1. I really liked this one. I do Sprint Triathlons, but have no desire to do an Ironman. And the book didn’t change that. But, it did give me a great respect for those that do. Like you, I teared up when Reilly said “you are an Ironman.” Also agree it’s not a training manual…more story-based.

    • Yes, I think it definately gives you respect for them! But at the same time I completely understand why it didn’t make you want to do an Ironman!!! Sprint triathlons are quite enough in themselves 🙂

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