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A Timeline of the History of Ironman-Distance World Records

From Dave Scott to Kristian Blummenfelt. From Paula Newby Fraser to Chrissie Wellington. We take a look back through the record books.


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Iron-distance world records are rather arbitrary: With races run on different courses and in different conditions, there’s no cut-and-dry comparison from event to event. While the official world record is up for debate, what’s for sure is that there has been an impressive progression of performances in the sport on both Ironman brand and non-Ironman course.

With the Sub7/Sub8 Project nearly upon us, it’s an appropriate time to come through the history books. A look at the records over the years give us an appreciation of how far we’ve come—and points to the very real possibility of a sub-seven and sub-eight by a man and woman, respectively.

So just how far have we come? Here’s a timeline of how the Iron-distance record has evolved in the last four decades. 

Dave Scott broke his previous Kona record (seen here) in 1989 in Japan. Photo: Allsport/Getty Images
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The Men’s World Records

1989

The Time: 8:01:31

The Triathlete: Dave Scott, U.S.

The Race: Ironman Japan, 1989

Race Notes: Scott shaves nearly 27 minutes off his world-record time from Kona the previous year to set the new standard—and digs deep in the late stages of the run to try to break the eight-hour mark, coming up just 91 seconds short.

1996

The Time: 7:57:02 

The Triathlete: Lothar Leder, Germany

The Race: Ironman Europe, Roth, Germany

Race Notes: It takes seven more years after Scott’s near-miss for a man to finally dip under eight hours. Leder, a 25-year-old local star who grew up in Bavaria, sends jaws dropping when he crosses the line with three minutes to spare.

1997

The Time: 7:50:27 

The Triathlete: Luc van Lierde, Belgium

The Race: Ironman Europe, Roth, Germany

Race Notes: A huge spectator turnout and ideal conditions create an atmosphere for a banner day in Roth. Van Lierde tops a hard-charging pack of four to take the tape, while the rest—including former record holder Leder, in third—all go sub 7:57 (the fourth place finisher matches the mark).

2011

The Time: 7:45:58

The Triathlete: Marino Vanhoenacker, Belgium

The Race: Ironman Austria

Race Notes: Vanhoenacker ends a 14-year-long world record drought with his convincing win in Austria, despite suffering from a broken rib during his training block for the race. It’s his sixth-straight win in Austria, and a new Ironman-brand world record.

Andreas Raelert can believe it after he sets a new world record at Challenge Roth in 2011. (Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for Challenge Roth)

2011

The Time: 7:41:33 

The Triathlete: Andreas Raelert, Germany

The Race: Challenge Roth

Race Notes: Just one week after Vanhoenacker sets the world record, Raelert lowers it even more at his Challenge Roth debut (In 2001, the race changed ownership from Ironman to the Challenge Family.) The 35-year-old puts together a 46:18 swim, a 4:11:43 bike, and a 2:40:52 run to clinch the win.

2016

The Time: 7:35:39

The Triathlete: Jan Frodeno, Germany

The Race: Challenge Roth

Race Notes: With Raelert’s record as his “A” goal, a laser-focused Frodeno posts a 45:22 swim, a 4:09:22 bike, and a 2:40:35 marathon on a cool, still day to smash the five-year-old mark by six minutes. And it’s a mostly solo effort; Frodeno beats runner-up Joe Skipper of the U.K. by more than 20 minutes.

2015

The Time: 7:44:29

The Triathlete: Lionel Sanders, Canada

The Race: Ironman Arizona

Race Notes: Since Challenge Roth is no longer an Ironman brand race, it’s not until 2015 that Vanhoenacker’s Ironman-branded record goes down with Sanders’ stunning display in Tempe. His 53:45 swim, 4:04:38 bike, and a 2:42:21 marathon seals his victory.

2017

The Time: 7:40:23

The Triathlete: Tim Don, Great Britain

The Race: Ironman South American Championship, Florianopolis, Brazil

Race Notes: Don makes history on a rainy day to set a new Ironman brand mark. The former ITU star and Olympian puts together a 44:16 swim, a 4:06:56 bike, and a 2:44:46 marathon to shave another four minutes off the M-dot record.

2018

The Time: 7:39:25

The Triathlete: Matt Hanson, U.S.

The Race: Ironman North American Championships, The Woodlands, Texas

Race Notes: In a high-drama finish, Hanson outkicks Russia’s Ivan Tutukin in the final mile of his 2:34:39 marathon to run his way into first in record time. Despite the bike course falling two miles short of the standard 112-mile distance, Ironman upholds Hanson’s winning time as the new record.

2020

The Time: 7:27:53

The Triathlete: Jan Frodeno, Germany

The Race: Tri-Battle Royale, Allgäu, Germany

Race Notes: In a highly orchestrated head-to-head match up with Lionel Sanders, Frodeno whittles down his own Iron-distance mark from 2016 by seven minutes. A 45:58 swim, 3:55:22 bike, and 2:44:21 marathon in a steady rain gets him there.

2021

The Time: 7:21:12

The Triathlete: Kristian Blummenfelt, Norway

The Race: Ironman Cozumel

Race Notes: Blummenfelt does the improbable by recording the fastest Iron-distance time in any race in his Ironman debut. (Even more remarkable? He does it just a few months after winning Olympic gold in Tokyo and the World Triathlon Championship Series title.) A swift down-current swim (39:41) certainly helps, but so does a 4:02:40 bike and 2:35:24 run.

Paula Newby Fraser on way to the first sub-9 in Kona. Photo: Lois Schwartz
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The Women’s World Records

1986

The Time: 9:49:14 

The Triathlete: Paula Newby Fraser, South Africa

The Race: Ironman World Championships, Kona, Hawaii

Race Notes: In just her second-ever Ironman, Newby Fraser displays what will become her dominating ways in Kona by winning and breaking the former world record by 36 minutes. She becomes the first woman to dip under the elusive 10-hour mark, and she will continue to bring her times down in the coming years.

1991

The Time: 8:55:29

The Triathlete: Thea Sybesma, the Netherlands

The Race: Ironman European Championships, Roth, Germany

Race Notes: Thea Sybesma of the Netherlands is the first woman to crack the nine-hour barrier in any Iron-distance race. Swimming 55:01, biking 4:46, and running 3:14, she beats runner-up Jan Wanklyn of Australia by nine minutes.

1992

The Time: 8:55:00

The Triathlete: Paula Newby Fraser, South Africa

The Race: Ironman European Championships, Roth, Germany

Race Notes: Newby Fraser takes back her record in Roth and goes sub-nine. Later that season, she posts the first sub-nine finish in Kona, going 8:55:28 en route to her fifth world championship.

1994

The Time: 8:50:53

The Triathlete: Paula Newby Fraser, South Africa

The Race: Ironman European Championships, Roth, Germany

Race Notes: Newby Fraser does it again, this time lowering her time in Roth to 8:50:53, a seemingly indomitable record that will stand for the next 14 years.

2008

The Time: 8:45:48

The Triathlete: Yvonne van Vlerken, the Netherlands

The Race: Challenge Roth

Race Notes: Van Vlerken becomes the first woman to crack Newby Fraser’s almost untouchable world record. The second? Hungary’s Erika Csomor, who finishes just over a minute behind. With her win, van Vlerken becomes the only female athlete in history to hold the world record for both the half-Ironman distance (4:07:29 at Ironman 70.3 Antwerp in 2006) and the full Iron-distance.

2008

The Time: 8:47:26

The Triathlete: Sandra Wallenhorst, Germany

The Race: Ironman Austria

Race Notes: Wallenhorst, a mom to a toddler son and a relative unknown on the pro scene, sets a new Ironman-branded record. She swims 57:19, bikes 4:50:43, and runs 2:54:45 to beat Bella Comerford of the U.K. by over three minutes.

2009

The Time: 8:31:59

The Triathlete: Chrissie Wellington, Great Britain

The Race: Challenge Roth

Race Notes: Van Vlerken’s mark stands for just one year as Wellington makes her Roth debut in stunning fashion, crossing the line almost 14 minutes ahead of record time, and sets the stage for what will become the Wellington Show over the next two years.

2010

The Time: 8:19:13

The Triathlete: Chrissie Wellington, Great Britain

The Race: Challenge Roth

Race Notes: Smashing her own record in Roth by over 12 minutes, Wellington’s time is fast enough to place her seventh overall, out of men and women.

2010

The Time: 8:36:13

The Triathlete: Chrissie Wellington, Great Britain

The Race: Ironman Arizona

Race Notes: Setting bike (4:47:06) and run (2:52:55) course records along the way, Wellington outdistances her competition by nearly a half hour en route to breaking Wallenhorst’s Ironman-branded record by nearly ten minutes.

Chrissie Wellington rolls across the finish line at Challenge Roth, after setting a new world record in 2011. (Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for Challenge Roth)

2011

The Time: 8:18:13

The Triathlete: Chrissie Wellington, Great Britain

The Race: Challenge Roth

Race Notes: Wellington wows yet again, breaking her own record by exactly one minute, setting a marathon course record (2:44:35) in the process–a split bested only by Andreas Raelert, the men’s winner, en route to his own world record.

2011

The Time: 8:33:56

The Triathlete: Chrissie Wellington, Great Britain

The Race: Ironman South Africa

Race Notes: Wellington breaks her own record in an Ironman-branded race with a win so dominating she has to wait around for 35 minutes to greet runner-up Rachel Joyce at the finish line. Her 2:52:54 marathon split is the fastest run of the day by a man or woman.

2018

The Time: 8:31:05

The Triathlete: Melissa Hauschlidt, Australia

The Race: Ironman North American Championships, the Woodlands, Texas

Race Notes: In April, Hauschildt wins in Texas, breaking Wellington’s Ironman-brand record set seven years prior. After some back-and-forth, Hauschlidt’s mark is verified by Ironman, despite the bike course being two miles short.

2021

The Time: 8:22:40

The Triathlete: Sara Svensk, Sweden

The Race: Ironman Cozumel

Race Notes: Svensk wins Ironman Cozumel in a new Ironman-branded world record on the same day Kristian Blummenfelt does so for the men. Like Blummenfelt, Svensk is boosted by a down-current swim (47:01), but she backs it up with a very solid bike (4:33:10) and run (2:58:02) combo to beat runner-up Gurutze Frades Larralde of Spain by nearly 10 minutes.