Much like a fine wine, Rotorua's Max Bragg seems to be getting better with age.

This weekend the 74-year-old flies to South Africa to compete in his age group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

He qualified for the event, being held at Nelson Mandela Bay on September 2, by winning the 70-74 age group at Ironman 70.3 Taupō last year. He finished that race in 6h 18m 44s, almost an hour faster than second place.

Bragg and his wife Doris have been regular fixtures in the Rotorua Marathon, and a wealth of other running events, for decades.


"I've been a runner for years, with Lake City Athletic Club, and a few years ago I decided to have a go at triathlon. I had a hard job learning how to swim, because I wasn't a swimmer, but I persevered.

"I did a quarter and some half Ironmans then started training for a full Ironman. The first one I tried, two years ago, the water was very rough and I never finished it. I came back again this year and finished it. It was the most sensational feeling, one of the greatest things you can do in your life.

"There's so much commitment and training that goes into an Ironman that when you complete it, it's 10 times better than completing a marathon," Bragg said.

More than 130,000 athletes participate in a season of qualifying races for the championship in South Africa, a series which comprises more than 85 events in locations such as New Zealand Australia, Germany, South Africa and Switzerland.

More than 3000 people will participate in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, ranging in age from 18 to 75-plus, from more than 70 countries.

2018 Isuzu IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship bike course

We are excited to introduce the 2018 Isuzu IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship South Africa bike course! Check it out ⬇️

Posted by IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship on Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Bragg said it would be "by far the biggest event" he had ever competed in and his first overseas.

"I've qualified the last two years, actually, but decided not to go because my focus was on completing the full Ironman. That was in Chattanooga in Tennessee - I regret not doing that, I'd like to go there. But, when I won my age group again last December and heard it was in South Africa I said 'I'm not turning it down this time'.

"I've got maps of the course and video of the bike course. Probably the biggest concern I have is the water temperature at Port Elizabeth, I've heard, is 13 degrees at the moment. That is cold. Hopefully it's warmed up by the time we get there.


"[The course] is beautiful, it's very picturesque, I'm really looking forward to it."

Preparing for the event had provided some much-needed motivation during the colder months.

"To be honest it has been bloody hard, winter training is not a lot of fun. I swim at 5.30am outside at the aquatic centre. We've been doing up to three or four-hour bike rides at the weekends and sometimes the temperature is about zero when we start.

"But, you do it, that's just what you have to do. I feel ready. I've always been a marathon runner and I just love the sport - where it takes you and all the people you meet.

"We've been Lake City members since day one and we were members of the Ngongotahā club for 10 years before Lake City was formed."

As well as competing, he was looking forward to enjoying a holiday afterwards.

"We saw Cape Town on Travel Guides on TV and we've got a half-day safari booked, a harbour cruise, a cultural show, we've got plenty of things to do. It will be nice to have a holiday after competing."

This is the first year an Ironman World Championship event has been held on an African continent. Located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, Nelson Mandela Bay first hosted an Ironman event in 2004 and has been the site of the Ironman African Championship since 2015. The world championship is the pinnacle event in the global Ironman 70.3 calendar.

Nicknamed "The Friendly City", Port Elizabeth was founded in 1820 and has steadily grown into an economic hub of more than 300,000 inhabitants. In 2010, Port Elizabeth played host to eight games of the Fifa World Cup held in South Africa.