Of the more than 3,000 athletes competing in Sunday’s ESi Ironman 70.3 Augusta triathlon, Augusta resident Katie Hansen knows she won’t be among the leaders at the finish line. But that’s no reflection on just how far she’s come.
“When I started running, I couldn’t run a full mile without stopping and walking,” the 38-year-old wife and mom said. “It’s a lot of training.”
But six years after taking up jogging, Hansen finished her first Half Ironman event in Augusta two years ago. This year she’ll once again be a part of the world’s largest Half Ironman triathlon when the race begins Sunday morning in the Savannah River.
Competitors will swim more than a mile down the river before biking 56 miles through southern Aiken County. The last leg is a half marathon through the streets of downtown Augusta.
“This is my first time doing it, and I’m kind of nervous,” USC Aiken student Devon Kijewski said. “I was told the idea is to swim to get wet, get your nutrition on the bike and don’t kill yourself on the first half of the run.”
The 13.1-mile run will begin when competitors wrap up the cycling portion of the race near the Augusta Boathouse. While most of the course has remained the same as in previous years – weaving up and down Greene, Broad and Reynolds streets – the finish line has changed.
First-year race director A.J. Sills said the move was made to reduce congestion at Augusta Common.
“That was a big piece of it. The Commons was used for the finish line, recovery, awards, medical, spectators,” he said. “What we wanted to do was make as much space as possible there. That’s our big change this year.”
Instead of approaching the finish line from Reynolds Street and turning into the finish chute at Augusta Commons, competitors will continue down Reynolds before circling back on 7th Street and approaching from Broad Street.
The first wave of swimmers will start at 7:30 a.m. and the race leaders are expected to finish a little more than four hours later, according to estimates released by race officials.
An awards ceremony will be held at Augusta Common at 4 p.m. and the course is expected to be closed a little after 5.
Sills said he expects big crowds downtown to cheer on competitors and greet them at the finish line.
“This all boils down to community support. Everybody involved has really embraced it,” he said. “All we need is good weather. I’ve been keeping an eye on (the forecast) every day. Ideal would be overcast and mid 70s with no thunderstorms.”