Three of Hampshire’s top amateur athletes are preparing for the race of a lifetime as they take on the famous Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.

Sophie Bubb, Rob Arkell and Kelly Stokes will all compete in the lava fields of Kona over the 2.4 mile ocean swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run on Saturday.

The trio have defied the odds by qualifying for the event, with less than 2,500 of the best triathletes from around the globe making it out of around 90,000 who compete in Ironman each year.

They have different goals and ambitions for the race, but all know they will have to have a good day to succeed in the searing heat and humidity.

Bubb, from Lymington, who will compete in the 35-39 age group, has overcome injury and a shoulder operation to get to the start line, and is aiming to be amongst the very top females on race day.

She said: “I’m very excited and feel very lucky to be heading back out to Kona for a third time in three years to compete at the Ironman World Championship. Clearly all only possible due to the insane support of my family and sponsors, especially Z Hotels.

“I’ve been going hard at it for four years now, ever since I was first amateur at the European Long Distance Triathlon Champs in 2015 and it’s been hugely motivating watching my times get faster.

“I was super happy with last year’s outcome; 10th overall in my age-group in 10hr 18mins, 20 mins off the winner and 52nd female overall including the large pro field, but this year I want more!

“The start of this season didn’t quite go to plan, with a broken collar bone back in May, but I’m pleased with my current form.

“I am looking forward to unleashing some of the frustrations of the last few months on race day. I go believing that this time I have done enough to be mixing it with the best in my category and a lot of the pros.

“On some levels, I’m very sad my little boys won’t be there again this year but if I’m honest, I’m actually quietly relieved. Nick (my husband) joins me a few days before race day and between now and then, it’s all about staying out of trouble, ticking over and getting used to the insane heat and humidity! It’s all getting rather exciting…”

For Arkell, who lines up in the 30-34 age category, the goal is to get in the top five and land a famous trophy.

“Having qualified for Kona a year in advance at Ironman Maryland I’ve been able to build specifically for this race, using several middle distance races along the way as part of the process,” he explained.

“It’s been a busy year, but overall training has gone well and I think I’m in a good place. I spent the early part of the year targeting a few running PBs, then moved back to triathlon from spring. My swimming is better than ever, I’m cycling as well as I have and I think my run will be up there if I have a good day.

“When I started the build I had lofty goals for an age group podium and that hasn’t changed.

“Having raced Kona previously in 2015 I felt quite a bit of pressure to just finish respectably and not mess it up. The goals were sub 10 hours and daylight finisher which I achieved.

“Hopefully this year without that pressure I can go one better and get a coveted fruit bowl (Umeke). I’ll certainly be giving it everything I have on the day to find out. Otherwise I’ll be off to Dunelm to buy one on my return to the UK!”

For Bishops Waltham based Stokes, who works for NATS as an air traffic controller, it’s all about performance rather than results.

“I needed to have and had close to my perfect race in order to qualify a year ago,” said the 35-39 age group competitor who has suffered a broken rib and hip and back issues over the past six months.

“While physically I’ve struggled with injuries since then, mentally I’ve become stronger which is so important in Ironman racing.

“This my second time in Kona but it’s such an expensive trip I don’t plan to return year after year like some athletes.

“With that in mind, I want to leave the island knowing I couldn’t have done any more. It’s a World Championship with so many amazing athletes so it sounds cliche but I just want to be able to look back and know I executed the best race I could on the day.

“Regardless of the outcome if I achieve that I’ll know I’ve done my family, friends and myself proud.”