Ironman Race Director talks about event return to PCB

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 5:48 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG) -Within a month our area will see the return of the sport of Triathlon. The week leading into Saturday November 7th we’ll see

a few thousand triathletes converge in Panama City Beach for not one, but two events, that will be run at the same time!

The effects of the pandemic forced organizers of Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast, or what used to be the Gulf Coast Triathlon, to postpone that event back in May.

That group also runs Ironman Florida in early November, and that event is now a go, with the blessing of Panama City Beach and Bay County. The Ironman folks deciding why not fold that first half-ironman event into the bigger race, and that’s what they’ve done. Both events will run concurrently November 7th.

The idea is to cut the normal athlete field for each event in half, so they expect about three thousand triathletes to compete in the two races total.

Ben Rausa is the Race Director for Ironman Florida, and I spoke with him Monday via Zoom from his home in New Hampshire. He says with so many events canceled or postponed this year, they’re thrilled to be hosting these events. And he believes it’s an important step in terms of getting back, and giving back to the community that the events have been a part of for so long.

“The first thing we can do is get back into the community.” Ben told me. “Ironman Florida, Gulf Coast, we are part of the community. We are here, we’ve been here, and we are staying. So getting back to help our own is pretty important. This is still going to help, our Foundation is going to be doing a food drive this year, we hope to help a lot of people in the community with that. We run our Foundation program off of donations and we give it back to the community. So our volunteer groups out there helping us, will still be receiving a grant from our foundation. And just getting back to a little bit more of normal as we go.”

Obviously if the athletes aren’t willing to compete, then the races can’t happen. Ben says the feedback his organization is getting from the competitors is a driving force for them be willing to host these races.

“Yeah feedback from the athletes has been positive.” Ben said. “They want to get out there and race. You know they’ve trained, they’ve put the time in and unfortunately, with the rest of the season, it hasn’t gone as planned. So yes, a lot of the input from the athletes has been positive.”

Ben tells me they’ll run the races concurrently, same course, the full ironman competitors will do it twice. And this time, for space concerns, they’ll use and Aaron Bessant Park for sign up and the race village, and Pier Park for the start/finish. That’s a change from using the Boardwalk Beach Resort as race headquarters the last several years. Rausa told me they appreciate everything the Boardwalk did for the events, but given the new safety protocols and space demands, moving west was what they had to do.

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