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Complete Rules of Ironman Triathlon

author image Aileene Palm
Aileene Palm is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and nutritionist with more than 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She holds a B.S. in zoology and a B.S. in physical education and exercise science, both from the University of Rhode Island. As an author and expert, Palm's work has appeared in "Swimmer" magazine, "Shape" and the Scrubs online magazine.
Complete Rules of Ironman Triathlon
Ironman races consist of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run. Photo Credit Phil Walter/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

In 1978, triathletes John and Judy Collins introduced the first Ironman triathlon in Hawaii. The race linked 2.4 miles of ocean swimming in Waikiki to a 112-mile bike ride around Oahu island and finished with the Honolulu marathon (26.2 miles). Since then, Ironman races have grown in popularity, thus rules and regulations have been created to protect the participants. Stiff penalties are imposed for any violation of rules, including time penalties, disqualification, written reprimand or censure, monetary fines, suspension and permanent expulsion.

General Rules and Regulations

Complete Rules of Ironman Triathlon
Ipods are not allowed at any time during an Ironman event. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

All participants must compete in the age group division based on their age on December 31 of the year of the race. Athletes must conduct themselves in a professional manner with other athletes and race officials. A participant shall not obstruct another athlete from forward progress during the race. Race numbers cannot be altered or unobstructed and must be readable during the entire race. No unauthorized accessories or equipment are allowed. Glass containers are not allowed anywhere on the course. Participants are required to know the race course in its entirety. The timing chip must be properly placed on the right ankle. Lastly, participants cannot accept any unauthorized assistance during the race. This includes physical assistance in any form such as food and drink, equipment, support and pacing.

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Swim Rules and Regulations.

Complete Rules of Ironman Triathlon
Fins are not allowed during the swim phase in Ironman races. Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images

Swimmers must wear an official cap provided by the race. All participants must start in their proper wave grouping. Goggles and masks are allowed, but no illegal equipment that creates artificial propulsion including fins, gloves, paddles or floating devices. Swimmers can use any stroke including treading and floating and can stand on the bottom or rest by holding onto an inanimate object that does not allow forward progress -- for example, a buoy, rope or docked boat. Any swimmer whoneeds help during the swim needs to raise an arm overhead and pump it up and down and call or seek assistance. Participants are required to stay on the course and stay to the left of the markers. Swimmers have 2 hours and 20 minutes to complete the swim.

Swimwear and Wetsuits

Complete Rules of Ironman Triathlon
Wetsuits are permitted in water temperatures up to 76.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Photo Credit Phil Walter/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

As of September 1, 2010, swimwear and wetsuits must meet certain requirements. All swimwear and speedsuits must be made of 100 percent textile material such as lycra or nylon. Rubberized materials such as neoprene or polyurethane are prohibited. Swimwear and speedsuits may contain a zipper but must not cover the neck or extend past the shoulders or knees. A tri-suit or race kit may be worn underneath swimwear/speedsuits. Wetsuits are permitted if the water temperature is equal to or less than 76.1 degrees Fahrenheit and cannot measure more than 5 mm in thickness. Full wetsuits are allowed. If the water temperature is greater than 83.8 degrees Fahrenheit, then wetsuits are prohibited. Participants are not eligible for awards if they wear a wetsuit in 76.2- to 83.8-degree water.

Bike Rules and Regulations

Complete Rules of Ironman Triathlon
Cyclists can be penalized if they draft fellow riders. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

All participants require either a road or triathlon bike to compete. Mountain bikes, cruisers and coaster style bikes are not allowed along with tandems, recumbents, fairings, and any other add-on device that reduces resistance. All bikes and helmets must be checked in before the race to make sure they meet safety standards. Drafting is not allowed. The draft zone area is 7 m long by 2 m wide for each cyclist. Overtaken cyclists are required to drop back 7 m behind the lead bike. Cyclists have 20 seconds to overtake another cyclist and take the lead. All traffic laws must be obeyed unless directed otherwise. Helmets cannot be damaged or altered and must meet or exceed safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Helmets are required to be securely fastened before mounting the bike and cannot be removed until after dismounting. Mounting and dismounting must occur in the marked zones in the transition area and riding in the transition area is prohibited. Participants may walk their bikes but cannot finish the bike course without their bike. The bike course closes 10 hours and 30 minutes after the start of the race

Run Rules and Regulations

Complete Rules of Ironman Triathlon
Runners are required to wear reflective clothing and shoes for when it gets dark. Photo Credit Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Running, walking and crawling are the only forms of locomotion allowed during the run phase. Runners will be required to wear reflective material on their shoes and clothing and carry a glowstick, since many athletes are still on the race course after dark. Ironman participants have 17 hours to complete the entire race.

Transition Area Rules and Regulations

When entering and exiting the transition area, athletes must reduce cycling speed to a safe level. Bicycles need to return to their designated corral and be placed in an upright position. Any other equipment must be stowed in the participant's assigned corral and/or designated area. Participants shall not obstruct or interfere with another athlete's forward progress while in the transition area.

The Finish Line

After the grueling Ironman race, many friends and family want to congratulate the finishers. However, family members, friends and other onlookers are not permitted to cross the finish line or enter the finish chute with the participants.

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