Instead of swimming in the Pacific Ocean, biking across lava fields, running along Hawaii’s coastline, and battling tropical humidity, athletes competing in the 2021 Ironman World Championship will swim in an inland reservoir, bike and run amid looming red-rock formations, and contend with an arid climate in St. George, Utah, next May.
For the first time since its inaugural event in 1978, the Ironman Championship Triathlon for elite athletes — a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run — will take place outside of Hawaii.
In August, organizers postponed the annual event (which did not take place in 2020), from October 2021 to February 2022, reported AP News, due to increasing COVID-19 cases in Hawaii.
However, ongoing pandemic concerns led organizers to seek an alternative venue. “As the impact of COVID-19 persists on the Island of Hawaii, resources remain stretched, and we lack confidence that the Big Island will be ready for us by early next year,” noted a statement on the Ironman website.
The 2021 Ironman World Championship will take place May 7, 2022, in St. George. The 2022 event is scheduled to return to Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on October 6 and 8, 2022, with male and female athletes competing on two separate days.
St. George No Stranger To Hosting Ironman Triathlons
St. George, Utah, was selected as the first new host location of the event outside of Hawaii in more than 4 decades based on its “strong community support, challenging course, and experience hosting Ironman triathlons and other major events,” according to a press release issued by event organizers.
The St. George area recently hosted the world championship for the Ironman 70.3, which is the total distance in miles covered in the “half-Ironman”: 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run. The 2022 Ironman 70.3 World Championship is also scheduled to take place in St. George.
Located in the southwest corner of Utah, St. George is part of Greater Zion, which also includes Zion National Park, plus four state parks and the communities of Springdale, Hurricane, and Ivins. In addition to the area’s scenic golf courses, the area dubbed the “Land of Endurance” is known for its hiking, mountain biking, off-roading, and other opportunities for outdoor adventure.
“The honor to host the first Ironman World Championship outside of Hawaii is as humbling as it is glorious,” Kevin Lewis, director of the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office, said in a statement. “There are few events that hold the prestige and respect of Kona. To be chosen as the destination with the capacity and character to host this event takes my breath away.”