A Brief History of the Ironman 70.3 World Championships

Photo: Jeff Bottari

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The half-Ironman has become one of the most popular triathlon distances in the world. There are over 100 official 70.3 events and several non-Ironman-branded options, so it’s easy to forget that it’s relatively new. The first 70.3 was held in England in 2005 and was a result of then-Ironman CEO Ben Fertic wanting to give athletes a more manageable distance than the full 140.6 so that they could race more often. The inaugural Ironman 70.3 World Championship took place on Nov. 11, 2006, in Clearwater, Fla.—approximately 20 miles away from Ironman’s headquarters in Tampa—and about a month after the company’s marquee Ironman World Championship event in Kona.

The move to Vegas (well … Henderson)

After five years in pancake-flat Clearwater (2006 to 2010), Ironman made the decision to relocate the event to Nevada, with Lake Las Vegas and Henderson sharing the hosting responsibilities for the early September race. Athletes relished the tougher course and earlier date, but the event still struggled to match the hype of the big Kona race in October.

A global strategy

In an effort to reflect the global nature of its events and athletes, the Ironman 70.3 World Championship began rotating internationally in 2014 among different regions on an annual basis. Mont-Tremblant, Québec, Canada hosted the first “global” 70.3 worlds in 2014, with Zell am See, Austria (2015) and Mooloolaba, Australia (2016) following. This year’s event in Chattanooga, Tenn., represents the first return to the U.S. since the rotation started. Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa (2018) and Nice, France (2019) have been announced as future hosts.

New for 2017

This year will feature a full weekend of events, with the race splitting off into two days. About 1,500 women (professionals and age-groupers) will compete on Saturday, Sept. 9, with 2,700 men (professionals and age-groupers) following on Sunday, Sept. 10. The split gives Ironman the opportunity to offer more athletes qualifying spots, since the field has been expanded from 3,000 to 4,500. And it will address issues of fairness: Historically the professional women have gotten mixed up with slower professional men and fast age-group men, making for a chaotic (and draft-filled) competition.

Every 70.3 World Champ

2006: Samantha McGlone/Craig Alexander
2007: Mirinda Carfrae/Andy Potts
2008: Joanna Zeiger/Terenzo Bozzone
2009: Julie Diebens/Michael Raelert
2010: Jodie Swallow/Michael Raelert
2011: Melissa Rollison/Craig Alexander
2012: Leanda Cave/Sebastian Kienle
2013: Melissa Hauschildt/Sebastian Kienle
2014: Daniela Ryf/Javier Gomez
2015: Daniela Ryf/Jan Frodeno
2016: Holly Lawrence/Timothy Reed

Jan Frodeno Reflects on His Final Ironman World Championship

Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.