DESTIN, FL-- Nearly 800 people lined the Destin shores at the crack of dawn Saturday morning, all eager to put themselves through physical anguish.
With nearly 25 miles of swimming, biking, and running staring them down, all athletes willing to face the challenge at the 28th annual Sandestin Triathlon.
A picturesque Panhandle sunrise set the scene for the sprint triathlon, as NewsChannel 7 Sports Director Scott Rossman served as MC, giving competitors the cue to jump into the calm and clear Gulf of Mexico just after 6:30 AM.
Racers popped out the Gulf, ran off the sand to rinse their feet and jump aboard their bikes for a 20 mile course through 98 and 30A.
Once they made their way back to Sandestin, the athletes were left with a four mile run through the resort leading to the finish line.
The Sandestin crew's worked hard to make sure the event was ready to go at their highest standards.
"It's definitely exciting to see it unfold," says event organizer Adam Alfonso. "We worked on this year round, put a lot of time and effort into it over the past five, six months. This is definitely a staple event for Sandestin and for the area and we look forward to putting this on for years to come."
The first athlete to cross the finish line was Eric Larson from Pensacola in just over an hour and 25 minutes. The first female was Jessica Demello out of New Orleans in an hour and 32 minutes.
"It feels great. It's a lot of fun. I can't explain it," said Larson, on competing in the event. "Sandestin is an awesome race, great weather, close to home, I get to see my family. get to see my family."
"This is just a great event," says Demello. "You can make it a vacation. It's family friendly. It's easily logistically to get to. To pack up your stuff and drive five hours is nothing and then you get to hang out at the beach with all your friends so it's a win-win."
The impact of the event, that goes way deeper than who finishes where. Sandestin's donating $20,000 dollars from entrance fees and sponsorship to the Sacred Heart Hospital of the Emerald Coast.