Home NewsNational PHOTOS: Rubavu Welcomes Ironman Triathlon Once Again -Look Out For The Steely Women

PHOTOS: Rubavu Welcomes Ironman Triathlon Once Again -Look Out For The Steely Women

by Vincent Gasana
4:36 pm

Berber Kramer, who was the first female athlete to cross the finish line and took third place overall on Saturday. Photos by Moses Niyonzima/KT.

For the second time running, Rwanda’s Rubavu district is hosting the Ironman Triathlon. Local athletes have acquitted themselves well, delighting supporters, who come out to cheer on the intrepid participants. But what is Ironman, what does it entail, and why on earth does anyone subject themselves to it?

They rose with the sun to take part in what, depending on your point of view, is a great feat of human endurance in sport, or an exercise in extreme masochism. Around 234 brave souls, from twenty-nine nations, including Germany, the United States of America and South Africa, gathered on the specially constructed pier, and one by one, dived into the deceptively calm, but strongly undulating waters of Lake Kivu. The gruelling ironman triathlon had begun.

The swimmers have to complete 2.4 miles, or 3.9 kilometres, which must be finished in a maximum of two hours and twenty minutes, or you are deemed to have enjoyed a swim, but not a race.

Proud moment for Rwanda as Heritier Ishimwe became the first Rwandan to win an Ironman Rwanda race on Saturday, completing the triathlon in just under 5 hours.

For most of us, assuming we managed to emerge out of the lake, without the aid of the rescue dinghies and water ambulances dotted about on the lake, would be scanning the shore for a deckchair on the Rubavu beach, to warm ourselves in the rising sun, perhaps a cup of spiced tea or coffee in hand.

Our ironmen and women, however, this year, the latter making up 22% of the participants, rush from the shore, quickly change out of their swimming kit, and don cycling shorts and shoes, for a 112 mile, or 180-kilometre bicycle ride, although bicycle race is more accurate.

Rwanda is aptly known as the country of a thousand hills, and if the athletes are lucky, it might be down one of those hills to begin with, while they catch a breather from the energy sapping swim. But there is no avoiding the climb, sooner or later, it comes.

At the end of that, thighs no doubt screaming from lactic acid, it is another jog to quickly change into running shoes, because now ahead of them is a marathon. Once again, they can hope for some flat stretches, but running uphill is inevitable. By now, the sun is getting stronger, as they get weaker, and few if any of them go past the bearers’ holding cups of water, without gulping down most of it.

Team Bigirimana won in the team’s category. Here they pose for a photo with RDB CEO Clare Akamanzi.

By the completion of the marathon, the participants will have completed 140.6 miles, or 226.3 kilometres. Depending on the course, most ironman events have to be completed within 16-17 hours. A flood of emotions will engulf most. Relief, pride, joy. It is not unusual for many to break into tears, overcome by the enormity of their accomplishments. And they are of course, physically exhausted, but elated.

You would be forgiven for thinking them all quite mad for even considering such a punishing sport, deciding it can never be for you, and sinking deeper into your comfortable sofa, to watch them huffing and puffing through your television set. Should inspiration be needed to change your mind, however, look no farther than the one or two disabled athletes, who take on the challenge and complete it.

Residents of Rubavu turned up in their numbers to cheer on the athletes.

RDB CEO Akamanzi congratulates a medal winner.

Woman of Steel: Akamanzi congratulates Berber Kramer, who was the first female athlete to cross the finish line and took third place overall on Saturday.

The triathlon is inclusive.

Lake Kivu tests the nerves of the athletes.

Related Posts