Back in December, Ironman revealed that all 12 of its 2021 full-distance Ironman events in the United States and Canada had sold out. According to the press release, Ironman Florida sold out in two days, while Ironman California (a new race for 2021) sold out in one day. The always-popular Ironman Arizona event reached capacity before general registration was even open. Ironman officials said more than 13,000 athletes plan to compete in their first-ever full Ironman event in 2021.
Of course, a large number (likely the majority) of those registrations come from athletes deferring their 2020 Ironman registration to a 2021 event in the wake of COVID-19 cancellations. According to Ironman’s cancellation policy, athletes registered for an event canceled by the local health authorities due to COVID-19 are automatically deferred to the same race the following year.
In 2020, that was what ended up happening for every full-distance Ironman event in North America except for Ironman Florida, which was able to go on as planned. The result is that thousands of athletes deferred to 2021, leaving few spots for anyone who recently decided to tackle the 140.6-mile challenge.
The lack of available race entries may also be a sign of pent-up demand and the anticipated boom in mass participation endurance events. Data from Sports Business Journal, RunRepeat, and Strava all found that the number of people cycling and running outside saw massive increases during the pandemic. Virtual events (a much less intimidating race format) were also incredibly popular, with many participants taking part in their first endurance event ever. It makes sense that these new cyclists, runners, and triathletes would now be looking to put their newfound skills to the test at an in-person event.
In response to the sold-out race calendar, Ironman announced today that it has added the one-time only Ironman Indiana—set for Oct. 2 in Muncie—to the 2021 lineup. It will coincide with the already-existing Ironman 70.3 Muncie. Athletes will start with a 2.4-mile two-loop swim in the waters of Prairie Creek Reservoir, continue with a 112-mile bike ride through flat rural Delaware County, and then finish with a two-lap marathon through the rolling hills on the south side of Prairie Creek Reservoir. General registration opens on Jan. 25 and it’s likely spots will go quickly.
There’s hope that the rollout of the vaccine will make all of these events possible this year—Ironman Texas, set for April 24, is the first full event on the calendar—but the U.S. is currently in the middle of a COVID surge. The highest number of single-day deaths (4,327) was reported just yesterday.
However, Ironman does have practice and precedent putting on events during the COVID pandemic, as long as local municipalities feel it’s safe to do so. Organizers put into place several safety protocols at October’s Ironman 70.3 Arizona event (the first U.S.-based Ironman event of 2020) and then adjusted those protocols for Ironman Florida in November—though they were forced to cancel the November Ironman Arizona event due to an increase in cases across the region.
Because the timeline for improved infection rates and complete vaccine rollout is still unknown, athletes registering for 2021 races still have to consider cancellation policies and flexibility. That’s also why many athletes are keeping their eye on local races, as smaller grassroots races may have more flexibility, and they might not be sold out yet.
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2021 Full-Distance North American Ironman Calendar
|Event||Date||Status (as of Jan. 13)|
|Ironman Texas||April 24||Sold Out – Wait List|
|Ironman Tulsa||May 23||Sold Out – Wait List|
|Ironman Coeur d’Alene||June 27||Sold Out – Wait List|
|Ironman Lake Placid||July 25||Sold Out – Wait List|
|Ironman Mont-Tremblant||Aug. 22||Sold Out – Wait List|
|Ironman Canada Penticton||Aug. 29||Sold Out – Wait List|
|Ironman Wisconsin||Sept. 12||Sold Out – Wait List|
|Ironman Maryland||Sept. 18||Sold Out – Wait List|
|Ironman Chattanooga||Sept. 26||Sold Out – Wait List|
|Ironman Indiana||Oct. 2||Registration Opens Jan. 25|
|Ironman World Championship||Oct. 9||Qualification Only|
|Ironman California||Oct. 24||Sold Out – Wait List|
|Ironman Florida||Nov. 6||Sold Out – Wait List|
|Ironman Arizona||Nov. 21||Sold Out – Wait List|
|Ironman Cozumel||Nov. 21||Registration Open|