A Portrush man has conquered the gruelling Ironman challenge – which he dubbed the inaugural ‘Ironman Portrush’ – in his garage to raise vital funds for the Extern Coronavirus Hardship Appeal.
Aaron Ballantyne, who is Head of Science and Service Industries at Northern Regional College, embarked upon his own ‘Hell Freezes Over Tour (For a Good Cause)’, developing and completing his own one-man ‘Ironman Portrush’. In just 10 hours 28 minutes, Aaron completed a 12,000m indoor row, a 112-mile-cycle and a 26.2-mile marathon, with his bike and treadmill linked to the Zwift platform.
His efforts formed part of a College-wide combined effort to support and raise vital funds for a range of charities in Northern Ireland.
With charities severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, staff at the College’s six campuses came together to fundraise or volunteer for a number of local causes during its first dedicated Volunteer Day on Thursday 07 May and over the weekend that followed.
Aaron explained: “I have previously completed four actual Ironman races and had decided to have a break from racing and competing at longer distances this year but when the lockdown came along and charities needed money, I thought I could complete an Ironman distance challenge indoors to help raise funds for a local charity. I upped the training a bit so I could complete the challenge rather than being well prepared for it.
“In the spirit of social distancing and limited outside exercise time, I decided to complete the challenge in my garage in Portrush – opting to substitute the swim element with indoor rowing, rather than swimming thousands of lengths of the bath!”
According to Aaron, a strong band of supporters were on hand virtually to cheer him on and get him through the toughest parts of the challenge. “The main problem on the day, apart from the underprepared legs, were technical difficulties with apps that were recording distances on virtual platforms,” he said.
“Despite this, though, the huge amount of support and encouragement from colleagues and students at the College, as well as friends and family, really spurred me on and helped me to complete the Ironman faster than I expected. The best bit of the day was definitely putting on a handmade Ironman finisher’s t-shirt that one of my children designed and made for me!”
So far, over £3,000.00 has been raised for Extern – a charity offering a unique continuum of specialist and dedicated services for families with new-born children right through to older people, covering a wide range of areas including: young people and families; housing and homelessness; mental health and suicide; alcohol and drugs; minority communities; justice services and skills/employability.
Grace O’Neill, Corporate and Community Relationship Officer at Extern said: “Extern wants to thank everyone from Northern Regional College involved in the tremendous fundraising activities that have raised over £3,000.00 for our Hardship Appeal.
“The Coronavirus crisis is our greatest public health emergency in living memory and means the families and individuals supported by Extern need our help now more than ever. Your support will ensure Extern can reach many more vulnerable members of the community who may need our help. Thank you for caring!”
Donations can still be made via JustGiving: