Bangladeshi “Ironman”


Mohammad Shamsuzzaman Arafat is a banker by profession but by passion he is a triathlon athlete. By running, swimming and bicycling for hours, he has achieved the ‘Ironman’ title. He crossed the Bangla Channel five times and ran across the country in 20 days. Let’s know more about the Bangladeshi “Ironman”.

Although the name Ironman brings up the picture of a fictional superhero these days, real life people who earned the title of “Ironman” do exist. They are considered the epitome of human physique, able to take on any athletic challenge and endure the toughest of competitions. Our country is proud to have someone who has beaten the Ironman championship just this year and earned the title, and today we try to learn a little bit more about the man behind the title.

Ironman is an event that started when some US navy men had an argument who was the strongest, the cyclists, swimmers or runners. They combined all 3 to make the Ironman championship, with the winner being a master of all 3 and a true man of Iron. It was established in 1977.

His name is Mohammad Samshuzzaman Arafat. A fan of mountain climbing, running and in general everything that pushes endurance and stamina to the limit, began his journey in 2010. That was the first time he climbed a mountain in Khagrachari, and immediately signed up for an expedition to Mt Everest that was being conducted from his place of education, Dhaka University, that year. He was shortlisted for the endeavor too. From then on, he started to run 5-10 kilometers everyday.

Fast forward to the year 2013, He was taking part in the Cox’s Bazar half marathon. It was there, his friend Partho first mentioned to him that there is an event that tests a contender’s ability to run, swim and then ride a bicycle for a total of more than 200 kilometer, consecutively and without rest. This championship, known as the Ironman Championship, got stuck in his head. Back then he did not know how to ride a cycle, but that would not stop him in the end.

In 2015, he swam across the Bangla channel for the first time. A feat that he has repeated another 4 times since, for a total of 5. He ran his first full marathon in 2016, that took place at Meghalaya, India. He finished the 42 kilometer run in just 4 hours and 41 minutes.

It was in 2017 he started his first big ambitious event. A run from one end of the country to another, Tetulia to Teknaf. He planned to do this in just 20 days, running 50 kilometers per day. He started this amazing feat in 17th of february, and ended is run within his estimated time on the 6th of march. He crossed the Jamuna river by swimming across it.

Afterwards, Arafat set his sights on the grand prize. Ironman championship Malaysia was taking place that year. He did not have the bike needed, nor did he have anyone with prior experience to help. He borrowed a bike from fellow bicyclist Abdullah Touhid Chowdhury, and flew to Malaysia. The bike however was damaged during the flight. In the end, he finished the event using another friend’s borrowed bike. He swam for 3.8 kilometers, cycled for 180 kilometers, and ran for 42 kilometers. All of this he finished in just 12 hours 43 minutes, well short of the maximum allowable 15 hours for the event.

The next year, Arafat trained and build his career. He joined NRB bank in 2016. In January of 2019, Arafat set his sights for Ironman Championship, Europe. He needed a bicycle that was going to cost 6 lacs 50 thousand taka, which he did not know how to manage at the time. Amazingly, his workplace came through and he managed to take part and finish the event in 12 hours 14 minutes. This time, the swimming leg was 3.8 kilometers, running was for 42.2 kilometers and cycling was 185 kilometers. Of the 2,748 people who took part, Arafat came 821st. He was 60th in his age group, and 96th among the asians that took part.

In between his busy schedule, this accomplished athlete took some time to sit with us and talk about his life. When asked about how people react when they learn he is an Ironman, he laughed and told us about the time he was at an event in Savar, and a lot of kids came to see him while expecting the fictional hero. So very disappointed they were.

When asked about his career, he named his MD, Dewan Mujibor Rahman as the most supportive person in his life. Not only did he always allow him to leave on these events, he also helped him to get financial support on his endeavors.

About future plans, Arafat is still not satisfied. He wants to take part in the Ironman World Championship, where ironman champions of other events come together to find out who is the best contender of them all, Ironman of the Ironmen. Arafat dreams to be among the best one day.