In 1977 Judy and John Collins dreamed of creating an event to push the limits of endurance athletes; as a result, they created the IRONMAN Triathlon. The first IRONMAN was held on the island of Oahu in 1978 with three legs; swimming, biking, and running non-stop for 140.6 miles. Since 1981 the IRONMAN World Championship has been annually held in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Around 100,000 athletes compete each year to win one race in their age group of 49 qualifying races in 27 different countries in order to win a spot on the IRONMAN roster. Roughly 2,000-2,400 athletes compete in the Kona IRONMAN a year, with only 3-20% unable to make it to the finish line. The triathlon starts with a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike course and finishes with a 26.2-mile marathon. The event begins at 7 am and allows competitors 17 hours to complete the course.
The last Kona IRONMAN was held in 2019 and has been canceled or rescheduled every year since due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With great anticipation, residents, visitors, and especially the athletes are excited to welcome this spectacular event back to the Big Island. One major change this year will be splitting the event into two days instead of the usual one. This change will likely continue every year as it gives the women and men their own day to compete, which ultimately aids in less congestion per course and gives the competitors their own spotlight. The Kona IRONMAN will be held on October 6th and 8th, 2022, with the women competing on the 6th and the men on the 8th. Without the day gap between races, athletes for the second race would be unable to check in the day before, and staff would not have enough time to set up and restock.
The annual Kona IRONMAN is back on, but what does that mean for residents and visitors? First, if you plan on vacationing on our island the week of October 6th, book your flights and rooms now! With only 2,400 competitors or less, it does not seem like many people; still, you must also account for coaches, supporters, media teams, vendors, sponsors, etc., traveling along with the competitors. So prepare for booked flights, hotels/lodging, dining, and especially traffic! Major road closures will happen throughout the week until the final race has been completed. Avoid Highway 19 (lower road) along the Kohala Coast as that is where the bike and marathon portion of the race will take place; instead, take Highway 190 (upper road) to and from Kona. Also, keep in mind that the Waikoloa Beach Resort will be the hub for vendors, volunteers, and competitors, so expect both car and foot traffic there. Furthermore, remember that in the upcoming months and weeks leading up to the IRONMAN, athletes will be biking and running along Highway 19 and various other roads in preparation for the event. We advise everyone to drive with extreme caution as many car/pedestrian accidents happen during this time. If you vacation during the Kona IRONMAN, we encourage you to cheer on the competitors or volunteer to pass our drinks, snacks, etc.
If you are looking for a place to stay during the Ironman, consider staying in a vacation rental on the Kohala Coast.