THE wait has been nearly as tough as the event itself but Brian Fogarty is looking forward to putting himself through a whole lot of pain in the Ironman UK tomorrow.

It was back in July 2019 that the 35-year-old memorably crossed the line first in front of Bolton Town Hall – cheered on by family, friends and thousands of onlookers.

The coronavirus pandemic put pay to an immediate defence of the title but, two years on, the Blackburn endurance athlete is more than ready for the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a marathon – an event that will take him well over nine hours to complete.

Fogarty, who will once again compete as an amateur, knows it will be tough ask this time around with a top-class field of professionals expected to take part – lured simply by the chance to compete and an increase in prize money.

But he is ready to cause a few shocks.

“I’m going out there to win,” he said. “And if not, a podium place is the least I expect. I know it will be tough, much tougher than two years ago because there were not that many professionals taking part.

“This year, there are a lot fewer competitions because of the situation we find ourselves in so they are all chomping at the bit to get out there.

“But I want to shock a few people.”

Among the professional ranks are multi-Olympian Tim Don – the son of former Premier League referee Philip – and Joe Skipper, Ironman UK champion in 2018 who went on to finish seventh at the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii the same year.

Fogarty will know just what sort of shape Skipper is in as he has been putting him up on the eve of the competition.

“Yeah, Joe has been staying with me,” said Fogarty. “He’s a good lad and is one of the best triathletes around. The same goes for Tim Don, he has been to the Olympics and done everything. It’s a top, top field.”

Brian Fogarty celebrates winning Boltons 2019 Ironman

Brian Fogarty celebrates winning Bolton's 2019 Ironman

Fogarty admits it has been tough on all athletes not being able to compete but for himself, a self-confessed poor swimmer, not being able to get in the pool has hit his poorest discipline.

“When I first took up triathlons, I basically had to learn to swim,” he said. “The swim has always been my weakest discipline, something I have to work on the hardest, so not being able to get in a pool for so long has been tough.”

Fogarty clocked a combined time of 9 hours 27 minutes 12 seconds on his way to victory two years ago – completing the swim in 59mins 50secs, the bike ride in 5hrs 11mins 2secs and ran the marathon in 3hrs 10mins 6secs.

While the swim may take a hit this time around, a leaner, slimmed-down Fogarty believes he could make up that time on the bike and run.

“I’ve worked on a lot of things, tweaked a few things, lost a bit of weight so I should be quicker on the bike and the run,” said the cousin of motorbike great Carl.

“The bike course is not as technical as last time and, to be honest, the harder the course the better for me. But it is faster so we will have to wait and see.

“But I’m confident, feeling good and really excited.”

He added: “I love competing in Bolton and I hope there is a good turnout to cheer us all on. It is one of the toughest, most gruelling courses in the world but that is what makes it all the more special.

“There is always an element of luck involved in these events, especially with the bike as you can get punctures or some sort of mechanical problem but hopefully everything runs as smoothly as possible.”

Since his memorable victory, there have also been changes in the Fogarty household where three have become four – little Iris joining big sister Eslyn

“I thought two would be just as easy as one,” said Fogarty who is married to Maria. “I was very wrong! It has been tough but we wouldn’t want it any other way. Iris is now six months old, the same age Eslyn was when I won so perhaps that is a good sign!”

Lack of competition may work in Fogarty’s favour as he is aiming to qualify for the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii later in the year where he feels he could be in peak condition.

“Any normal year, you take part in lots of competitions and you peak for the Ironman UK,” he said. “But these are not normal times so it could work to my advantage because, if I qualify, I could be in peak condition in Kona where, for one reason or another, I have never really been able to show what I can do. So that is a big incentive for me.”