They’re back. The Ironman TriathlonWorld Championship is coming to Kona on Saturday, October 13, but athletes, their families, volunteers, and others interested in the event are already on the island. For our economy, that’s a good thing. The visitors are staying in hotel and condos and private rentals, they’re buying food at our stores, they’re patronizing restaurants. Local chiropractors and massage therapists say they’re expecting an upward bump in business. And businesses that cater to athletes–from The Club to Pacific Island Fitness to Bike Works and Cycle Station–are getting a special boost in business.
The athletes are also on the road, biking and running. Ironman has put large yellow and red signs along Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway reminding motorists that the athletes are here. Motorists should be especially mindful of the increased presence of these athletes. And along Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway southbound between Kaiwi Street and Palani, where the bike lane goes between two lanes of traffic where merging is taking place, motorists should be especially careful, as the bikes are traveling at a much slower speed than the vehicles.
More than 1800 athletes have signed up for the event, all of whom had to qualify by completing a half- or full-distance Ironman race. The Ironman Triathlon World Championship consists of a 2.4-mile swim from Kamakahonu Beach next to Kailua Pier out and back to the beach at the recently rebranded Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, then a 112-mile bike ride to Hawi and back. That is followed by a full marathon, 26.2 mile that takes athletes from downtown Kailua-Kona south and then north to the Natural Energy Lab and back to the finish line on Ali’i Drive.
Although much of the focus falls on the professional athletes, there are fewer than 100. Most competitors are “age groupers,” non-professional athletes who lead ordinary lives even while training for this major, grueling sporting event. On October 13, the top pro finishers will complete their races in around 8 hours. But many amateurs will keep going until the deadline of midnight, meaning they will be swimming, biking, and running for as long as 17 hours.
The Ironman organization says they expect 21,000 visitors between athletes, families, volunteers, and international media.