PANAMA CITY BEACH, FL. (WJHG/WECP) On to the return of one of the biggest events on Bay County's calendar, the Ironman Florida Triathlon. The race forced to move to
Haines City in central Florida last year because of Hurricane Michael. It's back this week with the race set for Saturday!
After a one year hiatus caused by Michael, Ironman Florida returns to Panama City Beach this week
We spoke with Ben Rausa, Ironman's Race Director about the triathlon's return to Panama City Beach this week!
"We've been waiting two years now to get back to Panama City Beach." Ben said. "Being displaced by the hurricane, that was really incidental in comparison to what everybody experienced here in town. Haines City was able to take us on and support us. And really Polk County supporting Bay County. But we're home, Panama City Beach, 21st year, this is our home , we're part of this community."
This is the race that is the full Ironman, a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a full marathon, 26.2 miles. Ben says they were pleased with the folks in Polk County who hosted the event last November, especially given it was very short notice, just three weeks. He says though there was not talk of not coming right back to Panama City Beach this year.
"None whatsoever." Rausa told me. "We were actually able to announce in Haines City that we were that the (Bay County) TDC was ready for us and wanted us back. So there wasn't even a consideration. This is the home of Ironman Florida, it has been for 21 years and it will be for a long time coming as far as I'm concerned. And hey now it's time, I've been talking to athletes and our staff the same way, it's our turn. The community's backed us all these years and now we really are back to help the community and stimulate the economy if we can."
And Ben gave us some examples of how the Ironman folks, led by the Ironman Foundation, is giving back in a big way.
"You know our Foundation effort this year is amazing. In May we were able to award one-hundred thousand dollars to the Housing Authority in Panama City. And we're scheduled to, about another two-hundred thousand, it's going to be a total give-back of three-hundred thousand (dollars). It's our largest (donation) in our Foundation's history, I was told today. We have a "build a bike" right on site, we'll build another 175 bicycles we'll be donating them to the Boys and Girls Club of Panama City."
The 2020 Ironman Florida set to begin with the first waves hitting the Gulf behind the Boardwalk Beach Resort at 6:30. There is a new aspect to the race course, with a change in the bike course. That course, along with the swim and run leg maps, attached to this story.
Copyright 2019 WJHG. All rights reserved.