Top triathletes aim to break magical boundaries in special sub-7 and sub-8 project

Lucy Charles, here winning at The Championship 2019, tested corona positive. (Picture: José Louis Hourcade)

Eliud Kipchoge breaking the magical two-hour barier in the marathon inspired many of us, and it’s done the same for Lucy Charles-Barclay, Nicola Spirig, Alistair Brownlee and Kristian Blummenfelt. In a draft-legal event  these four top athletes aim to do what seems impossible over a full-distance triathlon: respectively go sub-7 and sub-8 hours.

Swimming at the speed of an Olympic triathlon, cycling an average of 51 kilometers per hour and running a marathon in 2:30 or less. It’s a crazy challenge that two-time Olympic gold medalist Brownlee (Great Britain) and the world record holder for the half-distance, Blummenfelt (Norway), will take on. Fortunately, they have some time to prepare as the event is scheduled for the the spring of 2022. The world-best for the full-distance belongs to Jan Frodeno, who stopped the clock at 7:35:39 at Challenge Roth in 2016.

While the men focus on going seven hours, the women have their sights set on a sub-eight-hour finish. Three-time Kona runner-up Charles-Barclay (Great Britain) and two-time Olympic medalist Spirig (Switzerland) will have to work hard throughout 2021 to make the impossible possible. With the current world best of 8:18:13 held by Chrissie Wellington, they will need to be more than 18 minutes faster than any woman has ever been in our sport.

“The hardest challenge of my career”

“This will be the most difficult thing I’ve ever taken part in, but my hope is it inspires others to push further than they’ve ever gone before in any aspect of life,” Lucy Charles commented. Spirig couldn’t agree more: “This might be the hardest challenge of my career, but also the most rewarding if I’m able to show others what is possible.”

“Many say it’s impossible, but wouldn’t it be great if we were able to defy the naysayers,” Blummenfelt added. “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”.

How the idea came about

Brownlee explains how the four came up with the idea: “We sat around a table after an endurance race in Bahrain discussing the world record times and if they could be beaten. 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.”

Pho3nix SUB7 and Pho3nix SUB8 official event name

Former Ironman World Champion and CEO of the event organizers, Mana Sport and Entertainment Group, Chris McCormack declared the challenge is officially known as the Pho3nix SUB7 and Pho3nix SUB8, named after their main partner Pho3Nix Foundation, a non-profit that aims to motivate young people to practice sports.

“If Alistair or Kristian broke s even hours or Nicola or Lucy broke eight hours, it would elevate these great competitors to 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 #DefyImpossible,” McCormack says.