The return of athletic events in Chattanooga will include the most grueling of endeavors.
With the Chattanooga Football Club season already up and running, the Chattanooga Lookouts having started Wednesday night and the Chattanooga Red Wolves kicking off this weekend, the Sunbelt Bakery Ironman 70.3 is right around the corner. Ironman confirmed Thursday afternoon that the elite competition of those who can swim, bike and run for hours will transpire as scheduled on Sunday, May 23.
"It's hard to put it into words," Ironman 70.3 race director Brian Myrick said in a release. "Our passion for putting on events is only surpassed by our athletes' passion for racing. We have worked hard to implement our Safe Return to Racing Guidelines that will allow us to conduct these races safely, and, in doing so, the feeling of getting back to doing what we love in racing is priceless.
"We are learning event-by-event and we are looking forward to working with Chattanooga, Hamilton County and Walker County to bring back racing under safe and enjoyable conditions for all involved."
Masks will be required for spectators attending the competition's three stages.
Chattanooga had annually hosted an Ironman 70.3, or a half triathlon, since 2015 until the outbreak of the coronavirus shelved last year's event. Tim Morgan, chief officer of Chattanooga Sports, said the last Ironman 70.3 in 2019 had a direct economic impact of $3.9 million, with an overall estimated impact of $6.4 million.
"It's exciting to see the event industry come back under safe protocols and conditions," Morgan said. "They're going to open back up under COVID protocols, which is the responsible thing to do."
Morgan said the 2019 Ironman 70.3 had 3,548 athletes from out of the area, which comprised the overwhelming majority of the field of nearly 4,000.
The full-distance Ironman triathlon, which Chattanooga first hosted in 2014 and was held annually from 2016-19, is scheduled to return in late September.