Conventional wisdom holds that finishing an iron distance triathlon in under 8 hours for female athletes is a matter of when, not if. Finish times have steadily fallen, and the current record is less than 20 minutes away from the 8-hour mark.
But going Sub8 is not a fait accompli. Any athlete attempting it would still have to train perfectly, perfect their strategies, and then execute perfectly on the day. Why would anyone put that immense pressure on themselves to perform?
For Lucy Charles-Barclay and Nicola Spirig, signing on to the Sub8 Project is all about taking the opportunity presented to push limits, show what is humanly possible, and inspire generations.
“I think that ultimately you’ve still got to go out there and push yourself hard for nearly eight hours. So it’s still a huge feat of what is possible for a human,” says Charles-Barclay.
“It’s pretty exciting to think that there’s only two women on the start line able to have this opportunity to try and go Sub8. One of us may do it, one of us might not. But either way we’re going to be probably laying down a really fast time that could be the fastest time set so far, and I think that’s a pretty exciting opportunity.”
Spirig thinks the journey towards the goal is just as important. “I always found it fascinating to test myself and to see where my limits are,” she notes. “What I learned is that even if you might not reach your goals and your dreams all the time, it’s always worth it to pursue them because you learn so much on the way and it will always make you a better person.”
Beyond self-improvement, achieving Sub8 will bring a wider audience into long-distance triathlon, says Charles-Barclay.
“I think it will bring in a new kind of line in the sand of what’s possible and have people aiming towards these faster times and aspiring to go even faster than they have before. And it will definitely bring in some questions about what is actually possible and how fast you can go within this super crazy distance.”
Ultimately, it’s about reaching a new generation of athletes who will be inspired to take on even greater challenges. Spirig says, “I’m doing this because I already had a great career, I have two Olympic medals… Now for me it’s important to give something back, inspire the next generation, be a motivation and show others that you should chase your dreams and try to reach your goals.”
Charles-Barclay concludes, “It would mean so much to hear from younger kids and athletes that are inspired to do sport that my one day of trying to push and go Sub8 has inspired them to maybe take up a new challenge.”