For most part-time athletes, finishing one Ironman New Zealand endurance challenge is something to cherish.

But Papamoa father-of-two Duane Braithwaite is no ordinary weekend jogger.

The 43-year-old will front up for his 13th Ironman New Zealand event in Taupo on March 5.

He did his first in 2001 and says his mental toughness has carried him through many trials and tribulations competing ever since.

I have a passion for the sport. My wife Andrea thinks it is a bit of an obsession.


"Doing one is pretty special let alone 12 and coming up 13. You have to love a bit of pain but first and foremost you have to love the training. I enjoy the training and I have some good mates I train with. We have some good banter. When you are out there on your bike training for six hours on a Saturday or Sunday well if you don't like it well training is the hard part, the race is the easy part," Braithwaite said.

"I have a passion for the sport. My wife Andrea thinks it is a bit of an obsession. Why do I keep doing it? I have two young kids, a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old, and I think it great for them to see Mum and Dad out there doing something. But yes, this is a little bit extreme."

The other major driving force for Braithwaite is the Ironman Legacy Programme that each year gives 100 athletes worldwide a chance to compete at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

To meet the criteria athletes must have completed 12 full-distance Ironman races by the end of last year and never competed at Kona before.

"I am too old and slow to qualify the proper way I suppose," Braithwaite said laughing.

"You have to get first, second or third in your age group normally and I am a bit further back than that. Hopefully this October I get to go, if not then maybe next October. Kona has been a dream of mine for 20 years."

Over the years there has been plenty of blood, sweat and tears spilt by Braithwaite competing at Ironman New Zealand. The sport is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

"My first one was probably one of my better ones purely because you do the training and I went into it with no expectations. The goal was just to cross the finish line but from there you set yourself better goals I've got to go quicker, I've got to train harder.

"Four years ago was my toughest race. I went into it with a gastric bug I picked up off my young fellah and so went into it a little bit empty.

"I'd like to think I am one of the strongest mentally out there and this race would make that abundantly clear. I spent over seven hours for the run of a 42k marathon which normally takes me four or four and a half hours.

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"Apparently I had no idea what was going on. I crossed the finish line and collapsed. I was rushed to Taupo Hospital and then transferred to Rotorua Hospital with acute renal failure. I spent three days in hospital and it took me three or four months to get over that."

Despite the ordeal, giving up his dream of making it to Kona was never an option.

"There is always unfinished business in Ironman.

"I have a lot to prove to myself, and Clive Cousins and I have a thing going. He has done 11 and I have now done 12. I want to keep one ahead of him."

Braithwaite's best time is around 11 hours 40 minutes.

He says the way to succeed against such enormous odds to finish an Ironman is to break everything down into small achievable goals, particularly on the gut-busting marathon run to finish.

"If you thought of it as a 42k run it is daunting and very, very hard to get your head around. That is when the mental game comes in to it. I break it down to being a three lap course, of out, then back and then the last lap I break it down into even smaller goals of lamppost to lamppost. It gets a little bit more achievable."

No matter if you are record winning Ironman New Zealand legend Cameron Brown or an enthusiastic amateur like Braithwaite, the emotional lift when the finish line comes into sight is always special.

"I guess if you could bottle it up and sell it you would be a very, very rich man. I have pretty much had a tear in my eye every single time," Braithwaite said.

"I have my family there and friends. Ironman is a tough day whether it is eight and a half hours for Cameron Brown or 17 hours for the person who finishes last.

"Every single one in the middle gets a huge buzz when you cross that finish line."

Braithwaite will dedicate Ironman number 13 next month to his father who passed away before Christmas.

"He always thought I was crazy and said I should give up but I have a stubborn side to me that won't listen to my father anyway I suppose. I will look up top when I finish and say 'I told you so' to the old boy.

"This one will be pretty special."

Ironman New Zealand

• Where: Taupo
• When: March 5
• Distances: swim 3.56km, bike 180km, run 42.2km