IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship Puts Chattanooga on a Global Stage

By Matt Swenson, September 1, 2017

The IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship will be on a scale Chattanooga has never seen before. And that’s saying something for the Tennessee city—home to four IRONMAN events this year alone.

“The sheer numbers define the difference,” says Tim Morgan, CSEE, president of the Chattanooga Sports Committee.

Indeed, 2,200 women will compete Sept. 9, followed by 2,500 men Sept. 10.

“Double the numbers and triple the fun,” says Morgan, comparing the championship to other IRONMAN races.

IRONMAN is hardly new to Chattanooga—the relationship began in 2014. But Diana Bertsch, IRONMAN’s world championship race director, had never been to the Scenic City until her initial site visit two years ago.

“Chattanooga absolutely shined,” recalls Bertsch. “It was so evident the community wanted to welcome us.”

Kona, Hawaii, holds the distinction of being the only home to the original IRONMAN championship. But the 70.3 World Championship distinguishes itself by moving across the globe.

Prior to Chattanooga, Bertsch and company placed the international competition in Mooloolaba, Australia, and Zell am See-Kaprun, Austria. Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, is next in 2018, followed by Nice, France, in 2019, before a likely return to U.S. soil.

Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga

While each destination awarded the 70.3 World Championship has its own specialties, Bertsch says there are some common traits. For starters, the course has to be worthy of the event.

“The swim, bike, run has to be top-notch,” says Bertsch.

For example, the course in Chattanooga in September will be more challenging than ones used in other IRONMAN events it has hosted. Swimmers will head upstream for a longer distance and the biking will include more hills.

Morgan thrives off the challenge of adapting to the larger event. If nothing else, it means Chattanooga is an unusually popular IRONMAN destination.

“After it is all said and done, we will be the first and only community, to-date, to manage the logistics and host responsibilities of four IRONMAN races in one year,” he boasts.

Bertsch, who has raced in the IRONMAN World Championship herself, says the distance is the main difference between the original and the 70.3 event. But she can attest to the fact that both are worthy challenges for participants.

“It’s something that gets into every cell of your body,” she says of completing an IRONMAN. “You don’t ever forget that time when approaching the finish line.”

Morgan admits beyond the thrill of hosting this event is the stage it presents for Chattanooga to impress future event holders. “This will better position our region for our next crazy sports project,” he says.

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