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Taupo wakes to sight of undie clad runners at 35th Ironman

The return of the Undie Run at Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand went off to plenty of wide eyes and whoops of delight this morning, as 130 hardy souls took to the streets of Taupo in their finest and for some most creative underwear .

Long a tradition at Kona, the World Championship IRONMAN race, the Undie Run has not been held in Taupo since 2003, but returned this morning as part of the event’s 35 year anniversary celebrations.

Those running included American Rob Verhelst, who took part in his underwear and wearing his firefighting breathing apparatus. Verhelst will compete on Saturday in the full IRONMAN wearing his firefighting gear for the entire marathon run section, something he has done around the world since 2011.

“My mission to inspire people to “Live your passion” started in 2011 when I did Ironman Wisconsin, which landed on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I did it different than most though, and for the purpose of honoring those who lost their lives and those who responded. I did the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike then donned my full firefighter gear (helmet, bunker pants, jacket, and air pack weighing 50 lbs.) for the 26.2-mile run. Finishing the race at 16 hours and 17 minutes and igniting an insatiable drive to inspire others to find their passions and LIVE! Since that moment in 2011, I have completed 20 Full Ironman distance and 28 Half Ironman Distance triathlons in full firefighter gear for every run portion. In 2015, I pushed the envelope of what is possible and broke the Guinness World Record for the Most Ironman 70.3 Triathlons in one year with 23. The existing record that was done all in normal triathlon gear, but I broke it by completing each run portions with my fire gear. No extra record or credit, yet the purpose was to ignite the globe in understanding what we are capable of when driven by passion.

“In addition, I started the Fireman Rob Foundation in 2013 and since that date we have delivered 7,000 Gund Teddy Bears to children in hospitals throughout the world. Our mission is simply to #BearASMILE on children in need of a moment of happiness. SMILE to me means (Simple Moments Impact Lives Every day).”

Robert certainly helped bring a few smiles to the faces of those watching and cheering this morning, as he and others took to the streets on a fine but slightly chilly morning, running from the Great Lake Centre Northern Domain, through town to the lake front and back again to the finish line in a ‘test run’ for many ahead of their big day on Saturday.

There was a serious side to the fun, with the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter benefiting from all entries this morning, something Race Director Wayne Reardon is especially proud of.

“The community of Taupo supports Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand in such a wonderful and positive way, it is great to help ensure there is a legacy in that community from the event. This is something we are very aware of with our Mercury Volunteer programme but to also assist a local charity such as Greenlea Rescue Helicopter as a result of this morning’s Undie Run is fantastic.”

In total over 2,100 competitors will line up on Saturday, from 46 countries and all walks of life, as they take on the full IRONMAN and 70.3 race distances.

The Pro fields are stacked, with both men and women’s fields featuring the most recent three former champions in Terenzo Bozzone and Laura Siddall (2018), Braden Currie and Jocelyn McCauley (2017) and Cameron Brown and Meredith Kessler (2016). They along with a host of other leading contenders from around the world and New Zealand will get underway in a deep water start in Lake Taupo at 6:45am (men) and 6:48am (women).

The age group competitors then start their day at 7:00am, with many planning on being out on course until close to the cut off time of midnight, with the final hour of finishers always a highlight at the celebrated red carpeted finish line on the Northern Domain of the Great Lake Centre.

2019 Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand
Event Schedule CLICK HERE

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