In a year largely without official events being staged, the global endurance community got creative, and we've seen a surge in Strava KOM, FKT's and Everesting attempts. But, what challenges were out there for those willing to leave their bikes parked at home? The Marathon Squared Challenge attempted to fill that void.
The Marathon Squared, a challenge to swim 10km in open water followed by marathon run, each leg in less than 3 hours, was conceptualized in 2012 and only recently re-ignited by Magnolia Masters swim coach Tim Floyd.
For years, Floyd mulled over hosting this challenge, but with a void in most of the racing calendar, 2020 proved the perfect time to pull the trigger. On Sunday, October 11th in conjunction with his Snapping Tortuga 10km open water swim event, Floyd organized the first known Marathon Squared Challenge attempted on US-soil in and around Lake Conroe in Montgomery, Texas.
Three multiple-time Ironman winning pros, Matt Hanson, Justin Daerr and Lisa Roberts, heeded the challenge.
The 10km swim was staged as part of Floyd's annual Snapping Tortuga open water swim event.
In an iron-distance triathlon, both Daerr and Hanson, are typically found in the first or second chase pack during the swim leg, but the 10km distance would be a first.
Hanson had forgotten his goggles on the pool deck during a swim practice the previous day and was wearing borrowed goggles.
Daerr strategically started out the swim conservatively and was behind Hanson the first three kilometers before pulling up nearly even to him the remainder of the swim.
Both Daerr and Hanson were well behind the fastest swimmer on the day, elite amateur triathlete Tyler Blackburn.
Daerr and his kayaker deployed excellent positioning strategy for much of the swim allowing Daerr to conserve as much energy as possible.
Blackburn finished the 10km swim in 2 hours, 24 minutes and 40 seconds, over 6 minutes ahead of Hanson and 7 minutes ahead of Daerr.
Although Daerr and his kayaker took a better swim line, Hanson climbed out of Lake Conroe one minute ahead.
While Roberts is used to posting fastest run splits, the swim has never been her strongest discipline.
Though Roberts finished the 10km swim leg in 3 hours, 23 minutes and 50 seconds well outside of the mark, she was still smiling and laced up her shoes to tackle the marathon.
Out on the three-loop marathon course under scorching conditions, Hanson tapped out a 2 hour, 46 minute, 25 second marathon to become the first known person to successfully complete The Marathon Squared Challenge. Impressively, his transition time between the 10km swim and marathon was only 2 minutes and 58 seconds, meaning he completed the entire event in less than 6 hours.
Through the halfway mark Daerr was on pace to dip under 3 hours but with temps reaching into the mid-90's, his pace eventually slowed and he finished the marathon in 3 hours, 15 minutes and 52 seconds.
Out of contention to complete the challenge under the goal mark, Daerr and Roberts linked up to urge one another through to the finish.
Encouraged by what he saw and the questions he's been fielding since Sunday, Floyd plans to hold the second edition of The Marathon Squared next September or early October 2021.
All photos were provided compliments of Scott Flathouse Photography. His full gallery can be seen HERE and he can be followed on Instagram at @scottflathousephoto.
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