Iron Man Joe is a man on a mission

Joe Duckworth, Iron Man competitor
Joe Duckworth, Iron Man competitor

Ask most people about Iron Man and they will tell you it’s a film featuring Robert Downey Jr. flying round in a red and gold metal suit.

But for Joe Duckworth, he’ll need a real superhero effort himself after qualifying for the finals of a top sports event.

The Fylde-based worker will push himself to the very limits of his mental and physical endurance after winning a place at the Kona Iron Man competition in Hawaii, known as the ‘World Cup’ of the stamina-sapping sport.

Each gruelling race features a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and finishes with a marathon of 26.2 miles.

The 42-year-old, who works at BAE Systems in Warton as a firefighter, won a place at the prestigious competition after finishing in the top 40 of more than 1,600 athletes at an Iron Man event in Wales earlier this month.

Joe said: “I’d trained hard for the event but to come 39th was a great effort. I beat all the professional women competitors, as well as some of the professional men.

“Having done so well, it earned me a place at Kona, Hawaii, for what is effectively the World Cup of the sport. Ask anyone interested in Iron Man and they will tell you how it is the holy grail of the competition – it is where the sport first started.

“I’ll be facing high temperatures, stifling humidity and strong winds – it really is as tough as it gets.”

The event, set for October next year, will feature athletes from across the globe and Joe said it gives him a great chance to prepare for the tough challenge ahead.

He added: “With it being 12 months away, I can work even harder with my coach, Ian Murphy, to perform well.

“I started doing Iron Man several years ago, but I hit a bit of wall last year and struggled. I enlisted Ian’s help, as well as that of a nutritionist called Helen Barklan.

“Since then, my performances have improved with every event.”

Joe said support from his family, including wife Joanna, 45 and children, Anna, 11 and Lucy, seven, has been key to his success.

His family will be with him next year to cheer him on in Hawaii.

“They’ve been a huge help and have been behind me all the way,” said Joe.

“Every athlete needs the support of his family. I’m often training for hours at a time and their understanding and help is a big boost to me.”

Despite Joe’s success, he said some people still question whether he is mad when he tells them what the event involves.

He added: “I took the sport up four years ago. If you get your head down and train hard, like anything, you improve and get better.

“Must competitors have a bit of a screw loose, but at the same time you must be mentally strong. It is sheer bloody-mindedness really.”