A boost of iron

Annual triathlon is a shot in the arm for athletic tourism

FILE/STAFF Competitors celebrated as they cross the finish line at the Augusta Ironman 70.3 in Augusta in 2015.

The Augusta area is getting its annual whopping dose of iron.

 

The ninth annual Ironman 70.3 Augusta is running, swimming and cycling into town this weekend. If you’re not familiar with such events, ironman competitions are triathlons for some of the most dedicated athletes you’ll ever see.

Augusta’s Ironman will begin at 7:30 a.m. Sunday with a 1.2-mile swim down the Savannah River, from the Augusta Riverwalk Marina to the Boathouse Community Center. From there, athletes will mount bicycles for a 56-mile race into South Carolina and back into Georgia to the boathouse. From there, competitors will run 13.1 miles through downtown. The finish line will be at Augusta Common.

If you feel exhausted just reading that, note this fun fact: Augusta’s event actually is a half-Ironman event. Standard competitions are twice the distances we listed above.

It’s wildly popular. Like last year, this year’s registration sold out quickly as 3,600 participants snapped up spots. Last year the field of competitors represented 44 U.S. states and 15 countries.

If all the vigorous physical activity weren’t enough, we like how Augusta’s economy is going to get a workout this weekend, too. These thousands of visitors, and likely their friends and families, are going to need places to stay and eat and spend leisure time.

The Augusta Sports Council has estimated that Augusta’s Ironman events have generated more than $20 million in local economic impact.

The event actually kicked off Friday, when athletes began checking in at the Augusta Convention Center at noon. Also, today there is an Ironkids Fun Run. Registration for that is from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at Augusta Common.

And you don’t have to be a competitor to participate. The event’s Expo is today at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center, in the Olmstead Exhibit Hall. It’s open to the public.

If you have idle time Sunday, make a funny sign and stake out a place on Broad Street to cheer these visiting athletes on. If you witness the fun and dedication up close, it might even inspire you toward a healthier lifestyle.

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