Alistair Brownlee and Kristian Blummenfelt seek to go sub-seven hours while Nicola Spirig and Lucy Charles-Barclay aim for eight-hours.
Set for Spring 2022 at an as-yet-undisclosed location, the Pho3nix Sub7 and Pho3nix Sub8 will pit four of the sport’s best triathletes against breaking the seven-hour barrier for the men and eight-hour barrier for the women.
Pho3nix Sub7 will be taken on by British double-Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee and current Ironman 70.3 world record holder Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway.
The pair will aim to edge under seven hours for the 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run, surpassing Jan Frodeno’s world-best time of 7:35:39 from Challenge Roth in 2017.
It’s a serious challenge, but one that Brownlee is keen to take on.
“We sat around a table after an endurance race in Bahrain discussing the world record times and if they could be beaten,” said Brownlee. “The women thought in the right conditions it was possible to go under eight hours. I thought I could go sub seven hours.
“A mix of bravado and competitive instinct kicked in and before we knew it, we had all signed up to the idea of not just attempting to go faster than anyone in history but breaking the mythical seven- and eight-hour barriers.”
Kristian Blummenfelt added: “Many say it’s impossible, but wouldn’t it be great if we were able to defy the naysayers? Imagine the impact that could have, not just at the elite end of the sport but also to encourage everyone – especially young people – to be more active.”
The Pho3nix Sub8 challenge will be attempted by three-time Kona runner-up, Lucy Charles-Barclay of Great Britain and Olympic gold and silver medallist, Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig.
The pair’s first goal will be to tick of the world-record time of four-time Kona winner Chrissie Wellington, who set an astounding mark of 8:18:13 at Challenge Roth in 2011.
“This will be the most difficult thing I’ve ever taken part in,” said Charles-Barclay, “but my hope is it inspires others to push further than they’ve ever gone before in any aspect of life.”
Nicola Spirig added: “This might be the hardest challenge of my career, but also the most rewarding if I’m able to show others what is possible.”
To hit that magical seven-hour mark, Brownlee and Blummenfelt will need to swim at Olympic open-water medallist pace, average 51kmph for the full 180km bike – on pace with the Tour de France’s fastest ever road stage over 100-miles – and then run a 2:30 marathon.
Or, to use a different scale, the pair will have to equal Blummenfelt’s Ironman 70.3 World Record time of 3:29:04 for double the distance.
Meanwhile, Spirig and Charles-Barclay will need to take 18:13 out of Wellington’s time, where the Brit posted a 49:49 swim, 4:40:39 bike and 2:44:35 marathon (plus transitions).
Both challenges will be a seriously tall order but following in the footsteps of Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-two-hour marathon, we’re yet to find out exactly what technology and pacing advantages the four athletes will have to help them go faster than ever before.
“Outside of championship racing is where we often see the best competitive moments and records occur,” said Chris McCormack, two-time Ironman World Champion and CEO of event organisers Mana Sport and Entertainment.
“It happened in Roth in 1996 when Germany’s Lothar Leder smashed the magical eight-hour mark in the iron distance for the first time; and we saw it in 2019 when Eliud Kipchoge became the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours.
“If Alistair or Kristian broke seven-hours or Nicola or Lucy broke eight-hours, it would elevate these great competitors, They would become the rock stars of endurance sport. I really mean that.
“What they are attempting is almost the perfect multi-sport endurance athletic challenge. The physical brutality is one thing, but the mental anguish and suffering loaded with this is unheralded.
“It is truly an attempt to #DefyTheImpossible,” he finished quoting the project’s campaign hashtag.
The event is a Pho3nix Foundation project, a non-profit dedicated to promoting physical activity as a way to improve health and wellbeing among children with a particular focus on those in disadvantaged situations.
McCormack said: “The Pho3nix SUB7 and SUB8 projects are an example to humankind that all goals – big and small – are worth chasing. They are designed to encourage young people to use sport to advance themselves for the greater good.”
Pho3nix founder, Sebastian Kulczyk, added: “As well as laying down a challenge to Ali, Kristian, Nicola and Lucy to Defy The Impossible, The Pho3nix Foundation aims to encourage us all to defy our own impossible, whether that’s a non-stop 5k run, swimming a full length of a pool, running a marathon, or attempting to swim across the English Channel.
“I’d never done a triathlon before the age of 39 but inspired by watching the feats of Chris McCormack on TV, I pulled on my wetsuit and had a go. My ambition for The Pho3nix Foundation is to encourage greater participation in sport, especially among children that face obstacles in their lives.”
Reaching times hitherto thought impossible has become a big part endurance sport in recent years with Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-two-hour marathon attempts generating an enormous amount of attention.
The Pho3nix Sub7 and Sub8 could be just the thing to boost interest in triathlon and inspire new athletes of all ages to get into multisport racing.