Last week, 5,256 age-group athletes from around the world descended on Kailua-Kona for the first-ever two-day Ironman World Championships. It was an event three years in the making, as the iconic race in Hawaii was postponed—then canceled—in 2020 and held on the mainland at St. George in 2021. But good things come to those who wait, and this patient lot finally got their chance to swim from the Kona pier, bike to the Hawi turnaround, and run through the Energy Lab. Photographers Hannah DeWitt and Brad Kaminski were on the course, capturing it all.
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Excitement abounds as age-groupers – some of whom had waited three years for their chance to line up on the Kona pier – prepared to take on one of the most iconic days in triathlon.
An athlete pauses to focus on the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2 miles ahead.
Swim waves went off at spaced intervals, with each age group taking off every five minutes—rather than the traditional Kona mass start.
The swim conditions on both days featured a slight chop with some ocean swells in Kailua Bay.
Though the Hawaii Ironman course is notoriously tough, many age-groupers were simply excited to finally be racing in Kona.
The course was as beautiful as always, but it was also as brutal as always – on both days of racing, athletes had to battle temperatures in the high 80 degrees F and over 80 percent humidity.
The two-day format meant more enthusiastic crowd support from those competing on the opposite day. Both races, we saw both age-grouper and pros along the course, rallying their fellow athletes.
As with all races, volunteer support was critical to the success of the event. More than 5,000 volunteers helped out along the course, providing assistance in transition, handing out water, and serving as finish line catchers.
The pro races weren’t the only ones that featured deep fields with tight competition – many of the age-group races were just as exciting.
Every inch of the legendary Ali’i Drive was covered in messages of support, scribbled with sidewalk chalk by supporters of all ages.
There’s no better feeling than making your way through the run course and toward the finish line in Kona.
Pacing, focus, and nutrition was key to a solid run at the Ironman World Championship – those who dialed in those three elements seemed to be best-equipped to handle the hot, sunny run.
For many, racing in Kona is a victory lap – not only for the hours spent training for the event itself, but for the years of work that often go into attempting to qualify, either via placing high in one’s age group or by earning a Legacy spot by completing 12 or more Ironman-branded races.
In addition to offering separate days for men and women to race in 2023, Ironman will be increasing the number of qualifying spots for age-group women so they are even with the men’s field.
The final stretch of the run is lined with crowds of spectators offering high-fives and cheers.
An athlete raises her arm in victory after successfully racing the 2022 Ironman World Championship.
Age-group athletes expressed a range of emotions at the finish line, from pure joy to sheer exhaustion.
92 countries were represented in this year’s international field at the Ironman World Championship.
Crossing the finish line of the Ironman World Championships is an immensely satisfying achievement.
After finishing, volunteers scooped up athletes to help them to the post-finish recovery area, where athletes could sit, eat, and bask in the glory of their accomplishment.
The mood in the post-finish recovery area was jubilant, with many athletes congratulating each other on a job well done.