ATHLETES are getting ready to test their mettle in the Ironman challenge.

Athletes and spectators are gearing up for an incredible day in sport when the Ironman UK triathlon visits Leigh Sports Village and Pennington Flash on Sunday, August 1.

Last year’s race injected £4.5m into local businesses who reaped the reward of thousands of athletes descending on the region.

This year 1,400 athletes have signed up from 35 countries across the world for the 140.6-mile journey that takes the athletes on a new route, starting with a 2.4-mile swim in Pennington Flash followed by a 112-mile bike ride in and around Lancashire finishing with a 26.2-mile marathon in the streets of Bolton.

The swim event starts at 6am at Pennington Flash before athletes take to the road for a three lap cycle race.

Stuart Murray of the Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, which manages Pennington Flash Country Park, said: “The event will showcase the fabulous environment and sporting facilities that have been created in the Leigh area over the last few years. It should inspire people to participate in sport and other activities, particularly in the run up to 2012. Basing the registration around the Leigh Sports Village will really highlight this incredible facility.”

Competitors will head out from Leigh, cycle through Bolton, Rivington, Chorley and the Lancashire countryside. The cycle race provides a challenging course for the athletes to test themselves against and gives plenty of opportunities for local spectators to watch, as the course takes in some local villages in the area.

On the final lap, cyclists will head back to Rivington and Blackrod High School, to swap their bikes for running shoes, with the first athlete expected to start the marathon at around 11.30am.

The run course follows a similar spectator-friendly route to last year. The runners will leave Lever Park Avenue and head to Chorley New Road near the Crown pub at Horwich. They will continue towards Bolton, past Middlebrook and to the Beehive pub, before heading into Bolton town centre and back along Chorley New Road to do another lap.

For the final lap, athletes follow a route via Chorley Street, Bark Street and Knowsley Street into Oxford Street, crossing the finishing line outside the Town Hall in Victoria Square.

Athletes have 17hrs in which to complete the course and the fastest are expected to cross the finish line from 2pm, whilst others will take the full 17hrs finishing at 11pm at night.

Alison Boon, Ironman race owner, described the event as an amazing sight for both athletes and supporters.

“Ironman is truly an incredible spectacle for athletes and supporters as the athletes battle against the course, themselves, the elements and the fatigue that such an effort entails,” she said.

“Those that rise to the challenge are not ordinary but extraordinary. However the motto of Ironman is ‘anything is possible’ and that is truly the case.

“Athletes ages will range from 18 through to 70.”

Detailed swim, bike and run routes are available on the website