Northern Ireland news

Portrush man conquers one-man ‘Ironman' challenge in his garage to raise vital funds for charity

Aaron Ballantyne with his children

A TRIATHLETE has conquered a gruelling `Ironman'-type challenge in his own garage to raise money for charity

Aaron Ballantyne, who is head of science and service industries at Northern Regional College (NRC), developed and completed a one-man `Ironman Portrush'.

He took 10 hours and 28 minutes to finish a 12,000m indoor row and 112-mile cycle before running the full marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

His efforts formed part of a college-wide combined effort to support and raise funds for a range of charities.

With charities severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, staff at NRC's six campuses came together to fundraise or volunteer for several causes.

"I have previously completed four actual Ironman races and had decided to have a break from racing and competing at longer distances this year but when the lockdown came along and charities needed money, I thought I could complete an Ironman distance challenge indoors to help raise funds for a local charity," Mr Ballantyne said.

"I upped the training a bit so I could complete the challenge rather than being well prepared for it.

"In the spirit of social distancing and limited outside exercise time, I decided to complete the challenge in my garage in Portrush - opting to substitute the swim element with indoor rowing, rather than swimming thousands of lengths of the bath."

A strong band of supporters were on hand virtually to cheer him on and get him through the toughest parts of the challenge.

"The main problem on the day, apart from the underprepared legs, were technical difficulties with apps that were recording distances on virtual platforms," he added.

"Despite this, though, the huge amount of support and encouragement from colleagues and students at the college, as well as friends and family, really spurred me on and helped me to complete the Ironman faster than I expected.

"The best bit of the day was definitely putting on a handmade Ironman finisher's t-shirt that one of my children designed and made for me."

So far, more than £3,000 has been raised for Extern – a charity offering specialist and dedicated services for families with new-born children through to older people.

Grace O'Neill, corporate and community relationship officer at Extern, praised the college's "tremendous fundraising activities".

"The coronavirus crisis is our greatest public health emergency in living memory and means the families and individuals supported by Extern need our help now more than ever," she said.

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