I’ve never raced the Hawaii Ironman and probably never will. There was a time when I could have qualified but as a teacher it’s hard to take time off in early-October. However, as a triathlete since the late-80s it’s a shame to see the race owned by a profit making entity that can impose a qualifying procedure based purely on other races that they own.
The Hawaii Ironman was clearly not the first triathlon but was definitely the first to be outrageously long, attract high-level travelling athletes and grab global attention. Good athletes peppered the early start lines but prize money was not paid until 1986. Professional triathletes used to race USTS and Nice for money and Hawaii for the honour.
Today the race is still only a self-proclaimed World Ironman Championship and nobody can use the name Ironman for fear of legal action. I believe that the event in Kona should be primarily a celebration of the history of triathlon and accessible to all. The event should be non-profit with a board of trustees. Money made should be ploughed into protecting the local environment and funding youth triathlon programmes worldwide.
I’ve used ideas from the Western States and UTMB qualification processes to draw up an alternative Kona Qualification Procedure. Some are workable and some are pure fantasy. Start numbers would be 60 professional athletes, 140 masters athletes (age 45+) and 1000 leisure athletes.
Leisure Athlete Qualifying
Complete 3 year procedure below before entering lottery. Extra ticket added for every year it is not pulled. All tickets removed if you qualify. Re-start 3 year procedure.
- Take part in nine national governing body sanctioned triathlons over a three year period. Three * Sprint Distance, three * Olympic Distance, two * Middle Distance / Half Ironman, one * Long Distance / Ironman.
- Carry out 48 hours as a triathlon race volunteer. Active youth coaches offering their time can bypass this by submitting proof of their non-paid involvement at club-level.
- Pass a bike mechanics exam that involves a complete strip-down / reassemble and wheel building basics.
- Read Walking on Water by Andy Martin. Commit to visit the North Shore of Oahu.
- Submit a diary or travelogue outlining your commitment to sustainable transport methods for holidays or everyday use. Bike commuting, bike touring, canoe holidays, horse trekking.
- Yearly commitment after initial 3 year procedure: 3 races at any distance. 16 hours volunteering.
Masters (45+) Athlete Qualifying
- 140 (70 male, 70 female) slots are allocated to continental governing bodies according to their number of licensed athletes. Potentially Europe could get 36 slots, N. America 36, Australasia 20, S. America 20, Asia 16 and Africa 12.
- Athletes must make it through a regional Sprint Distance time trial qualifier, draft-legal Olympic Distance national qualifier and Middle Distance (2500/80/20) continental qualifier.
- NGBs fund their athletes who make it through to the continental qualifier. CGBs fund athletes who make it to Kona.
Professional Athlete Qualification
- Top 20 athletes from WTC World Series D1*. 4 races from November to August. Best 3 scores count.
- Top 3 WTC World Series D2*.
- Winner of WTC World Series D3*.
- Any Top 3 finisher in ITU Worlds (OD and LD) from previous year.
*WTC pros divided into 3 divisions to race on 3 separate Ironman circuits. 50 athletes per division with promotion and relegation. Entry to Division 3 is via Q School, organised by ITU in August every year over a 4 km / 120 km / 30 km time trial.
No automatic qualification for ex-champions. If an athlete has not been active in WTC divisions 1,2,3 for last 5 years they can take part in Masters qualifying. Past Masters (any former top 10 finisher) are invited to take part in a team time trial the day before the race.
- Leisure Athletes: None.
- Masters: Handbuilt steel bike frame in Kona livery for top 10 males and females.
- Professional athletes: Good prize money paid down to 30th.