AN ENDURANCE athlete has qualified for the first time to compete at the Ironman World Championships later this year.

Mark Lamonby, from Leominster, took on the Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire earlier this month knowing that he would have to complete the gruelling event which included a swim, bike and run in around four-and-a-half hours.

The race started with a 1.2-mile swim before competitors completed a 56-mile bike leg around the Staffordshire countryside finishing in Stafford.

The event finished with a 13.1-mile run around the town including two laps of a gruelling climb up to Stafford Castle, before finishing in the town centre.

Lamonby's finishing time of four hours and 32 minutes was good enough for fifth place in his category of competitors aged 30 to 34 and 40th overall out of 2,369 competitors.

"I was hoping for around four-and-a-half hours and thought I would be about there with that time," Lamonby added.

"When I finished I didn't know if my time was good enough so attended the awards night as I knew there would be a chance."

Lamonby is now looking forward to competing in the Ironman 70.3 Nice, France, on September 7, which incorporates the World Championship.

"I just want to go and enjoy it," added Lamonby.

"There will be 6,000 people there on the day who have all qualified to get there through Ironman events around the world.

"It will start with a sea swim followed by a bike leg which is described as picturesque which will mean hills.

"It will be finished with a hilly run across the beach front."

The Leominster-based endurance athlete started competing in Ironman events after taking up cycling several years ago.

"I was originally a runner and I hadn't ridden a bike in years when my uncle got me into cycling five or six years ago," added Lamonby.

"I really enjoyed it as you can go a bit further by bike so I enjoyed going out and getting faster.

"I come from a swimming background and was a lifeguard when I started out so don't mind swimming.

"I went to Ibiza for the European Championships last year and came second British athlete in my age category. I was asked to go to Romania this year to compete in the Europeans again but decided to try and qualify for the World Championships instead."