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Thousands of triathletes are in Kona for the Ironman World Championship

Ironman World Championship Triathlon run down Ali'i Drive, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
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Ironman World Championship Triathlon run down Ali'i Drive, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

More than 5,000 athletes and their supporters are in Kailua-Kona on Hawaiʻi Island for the Ironman World Championship this week.

For the first time, the competition will take place over two days to accommodate about 2,500 athletes each day — a record number of participants.

"We'll have athletes that will be on the starting line this year in Kona that have actually qualified as far back as 2019," said race director Diana Bertsch, speaking to HPR's The Conversation in August. "Early in 2021, we continued to have athletes qualify, so we have two days of racing."

Women and some of the men's age groups compete on Thursday, Oct. 6. The rest of the men will race on Saturday.

Events begin at 6:25 a.m. each day with a 2.4-mile swim in Kailua Bay, followed by a 112-mile bike ride to Hāwī and back. Then a 26.2-mile marathon starts at Kailua Pier, goes down Aliʻi Drive and up to the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaiʻi Authority and back.

Some athletes also raced in the delayed 2021 Ironman World Championship held in May 2022 in Utah due to COVID.

"It's impressive what these athletes are capable of doing," Bertsch said. "Some of them, you know, outside of the professional athletes, the age group athletes, it's their lifestyle."

"Athletes will come from all over the world. In the upwards of 70 plus countries, regions and territories will be represented," she said.

Bertsch said a study of the 2019 race found the economic impact for Hawaiʻi was over $72 million.

"We anticipate with the excitement of people coming back and more athletes coming to the island and bringing more guests that the economic impact will be even more significant than it was in 2019," she said.

“On behalf of the County of Hawaiʻi, we extend our warmest welcome to the Ironman athletes and their ʻohana as we invite them back to our shores,” Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth said in a statement. "We look forward to your return, as we once again stand shoulder-to-shoulder to cheer on the best athletes in the world from the best place in the world.”

Roads will be closed throughout West Hawaiʻi. For closure maps and information go to ironman.com. You can also call their road closure hotline at 808-334-3400.

The Kailua-Kona Public Library will be closed on Thursday and Saturday. The library will resume its regular schedule on Tuesday. Some waste facilities and landfills will also be closed due to road closures.

Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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