The Kona IRONMAN World Championship is, perhaps, the crowning achievement for any triathlete.
The grueling race, a combo of swimming, biking, and running, tests the endurance of even the toughest athletes. Yet, thousands of triathletes train, race, and fight to earn a spot at the prestigious starting line each year.
Want to learn more about the 2018 KONA Ironman event? Keep reading!
What is the Kona IRONMAN?
Every year, approximately 2,000 triathletes descend on Kona to participate in one of the world’s most prestigious one-day athletic events: the IRONMAN World Championship.
A 140.6-mile course makes up the race. The triathlon consists of three events: a 2.4-mile open water swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile marathon run.
The Kona IRONMAN was the first event of its kind, founded in 1978 by Judy and John Collins. The couple proposed combining three existing events (swimming, running, and biking) into one as a challenge to athletes.
The first IRONMAN was held in Waikiki, where it remained until its move to Kona in 1981.
The Kona IRONMAN is the World Championship Ironman event, requiring participants to have qualified for the event in a previous race.
How to Qualify for the Kona IRONMAN
Each year, more than 80,000 athletes fight for a spot at the Kona starting line. Only 2,000 make the cut.
Many of the triathletes earn a spot by finishing another IRONMAN race with a qualifying time for their age group.
Ten of the participants snag a spot by winning the annual IRONMAN Foundation drawing. Others qualify through the Legacy program, a program by which 100 athletes who have completed at least 12 full-distance IRONMAN-branded races earn a spot the Championship starting line.
The Kona Course
The Kona IRONMAN is known for its grueling conditions. Scorching temperatures, strong winds, and water currents all test the physical and mental limitations of the triathletes.
The Kona course starts with the 2.4-mile swim at sunrise. The swim takes place in Kailua Bay. The water temperature in the bay is usually 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Participants should practice this swim a few times before the race, as currents can be a factor.
After the swim is the 112-mile biking portion of the race. Cyclists will head north on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway from Kailua-Kona to the turnaround in Hawi. Currently, portions of the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway are under construction. Cyclists should follow all signs and ride single file.
The last leg of the Kona IRONMAN is the 26.2-mile (marathon length) run. Runners head through Kona town and up Palani Road to the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway to the Natural Energy Laboratory Hawai’i Authority.
A trip back down the highway brings the runners into Kona town for the electric energy of the finish line and all the cheering fans.
Special Considerations for 2018
2018 has brought a special consideration to the Kona race. Recent eruptions of Kilauea Volcano have affected conditions and air quality on the Big Island.
Event coordinators are closely monitoring the situation, and currently, the race schedule remains as planned.
Have You Completed an IRONMAN?
Finishing the Kona IRONMAN — or any IRONMAN — is a brag-worthy accomplishment. The brutal combination of swimming, biking, and running is definitely not for the faint-of-heart.
Celebrate and show off your heroic accomplishment! Shop our line of official IRONMAN jewelry, including sterling and 14K gold pendants.