Ultramarathon vs. Ironman triathlon

Which one is harder?

The Nomad Athlete
3 min readJun 23


People always ask me if I think Ironman races or ultramarathons are harder. Here are my thoughts on the two.

Please note, this is based on one 70.3 Ironman race, one 140.6 Ironman race, one 50-mile ultramarathon, and one 100-mile ultramarathon. The things I mention might not be true for all races, as they might be different depending on the organizer, location, etc.


Triathlon training is easier on your body. Because you train in three different disciplines, you don’t spend too much time doing just one thing. Swimming and biking don’t have the same high impact on your body as running does, and the majority of the “endurance” is done on the bike. So I would say triathlon training is not as heavy on your body as ultramarathon training.

Triathlon training is absolutely more technical. The technique is super important in the swim, and somewhat on the bike(remember, an inexperienced amateur writing this). The technical training I did for the ultramarathons was running on trails, and walking & running up and down hills.


In triathlon, you need a lot of gear. Even just the must-haves. Then there are the nice-to-haves, like a bike indoor trainer, and all the swimming tools to work on the technique. Those things quickly add up and get expensive.

For an ultramarathon, you basically just need shoes and a running vest to carry your nutrition and other stuff. Trekking poles are a nice-to-have in some races.

These are obviously slightly simplified, but you get the point. Triathlon is more expensive than ultramarathon.


There has been a lot of talk about Ironman races lately, and I guess they are a bit “flashier” than other triathlon races. But because I’ve only done Ironman races, those are the ones I can have an opinion about.

Ironman races are like a big party. You get an Ironman-branded backpack when you get your race stuff. The “design” of everything(banners, colors, stands, etc.) around the event area is visually pleasing. There’s music and speakers. A lot of aid stations with a variety of nutrition options. A lot of people…



The Nomad Athlete

Endurance athlete, digital nomad, nerd. Just a normal guy trying to figure out fitness, business, and life.