This weekend's Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga is going to be the most participated in non-world championship Ironman event in North American history, adding to the city's history of breaking records for the grueling triathlon.
The more than 3,800 athletes from 21 countries and every state except Montana will race the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run (half of a full Ironman) Sunday morning through Chattanooga and Walker County, Georgia. Only the 2015 Ironman 70.3 Mallorca in Spain had more registrants for a non-world championship event.
Chattanooga already holds a number of Ironman records: It was the first city to host four Ironman events in one year; has seen the closest finish in the history of the race; holds the record for most volunteers at one event; and has become a race some officials use as the gold standard when preparing other cities to host the event. When Ironman officials decided to bring the 70.3 world championships to Chattanooga, the city broke those records, too, hosting the most participated in 70.3 world championship event to date.
"I thoroughly believe it's the quality of the product that our team and our community with our volunteers work together to produce," Chattanooga Sports Committee President Tim Morgan said. "I thoroughly believe that. The quality of the product makes a difference. Our team, which includes all the different entities, working together to produce this quality product. And it helps that we have a beautiful community."
BY THE NUMBERS
3,800+: participants registered
49: Number of states from which athletes are traveling
702: Number of athletes from Tennessee
21: Number of countries represented
3,699: Number of U.S. athletes participating
The city also regularly ranks among the top host venues in Ironman athlete surveys. The local race was voted the best overall host city experience for last year's full event. It was also voted in the top 10 of overall bike experience and best venue for the full-distance race, in addition to the top spot for best overall host city experience. For Ironman 70.3, Chattanooga was ranked in the top 10 for best venue experience, best host city experience and the "will recommend to a friend" category.
After Chattanooga's contract with Ironman expired at the end of 2018, race and city officials reached an agreement to extend the partnership through 2023 for both the Ironman 70.3 and full Ironman race held each September.
The new deal meant renegotiating with Walker County officials, as well. The North Georgia county has put an added emphasis on its outdoor amenities in recent years. It launched the Walker Rocks tourism and marketing initiative to encourage people to visit the county. The agreement brought a $160,000 grant from the Ironman Foundation to Walker County for 40 new fire hydrants.
› Domian Thomas, 18, from Des Peres, Missouri, will be the youngest male athlete.
› Lizzy Walley, 18, from Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, will be the youngest female athlete.
› George Sharp, 78, from Decatur, Georgia, will be the oldest male athlete.
› Judith Garrard, 73, from Lawrenceville, Georgia, will be the oldest female athlete.
Source: IronmanDomian Thomas, 18, from Des Peres, Missouri, will be the youngest male athlete.
Lizzy Walley, 18, from Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, will be the youngest female athlete.
George Sharp, 78, from Decatur, Georgia, will be the oldest male athlete.
Judith Garrard, 73, from Lawrenceville, Georgia, will be the oldest female athlete.
"Ironman provides a valuable economic benefit to Walker County far beyond just this investment," reads a statement from Robert Wardlaw, economic and community development director for Walker County. "We have already enjoyed numerous return visits from previous Ironman athletes who eat, shop and stay in Walker County."
Sunday's men's professional race will see the return of 2014 champion Matt Hanson, who won the first Ironman event held in the city.
The women's professional race will pit three-time defending champion Heather Jackson against 16-time Ironman 70.3 and 11-time 70.3 champion Meredith Kessler.
"The women's race is going to be really, really competitive," Ironman Senior Regional Director Keats McGonigal said. "Lindsey Corbin is also here, and she's a many-time champion, as well. I think it's going to be game-on for the ladies straight from the start, and they're going to be battling."
4:30 a.m.-8 a.m.
› River Street from Tampa to Heritage Landing, closed
5 a.m.-1 p.m.
› Southbound Riverfront Parkway from Molly Way to Market Street, one lane closed
› Eastbound W. 20th Street from Riverfront Parkway to Market Street, one lane closed
› Intersection of W. 20th and Market streets/Intersection of 20th and Broad streets, expect delays
› Southbound Market Street to Alton Park Boulevard, one lane closed
› Interstate 24 Exit ramp to Southbound Market Street, closed
› Interstate 24 on ramp from Southbound Market Street, closed
› Intersection of St. Elmo Avenue and 42nd Street, expect delays
› Intersection of St. Elmo Avenue and Tennessee Avenue, expect delays
› Highway 193 at Highway 341 and Highway 136 at Highway 193 and Highway 136 at Highway 341, expect delays
› 40th Street from Alton Park to Tennessee Avenue, closed
› Southbound Alton Park to W. 40th Street, closed
5 a.m.-5 p.m.
› Westbound Riverside Drive/Amnicola Highway from Lindsay to Wilcox, lane closed
› Battery Place Ramp from Amnicola Highway, closed
› Veterans Bridge/Barton Avenue/Hixson Pike between Fourth Street and Riverview Road, lane closed
› Eastbound Frazier Avenue between Walnut Street Bridge and Barton Avenue, lane closed