Juneau will join a select group of cities worldwide as it becomes an official host for an Ironman triathlon beginning in 2022.
The Ironman Group, which operates the run-swim-bike athletic events worldwide, is partnering with Travel Juneau to host the first official event by the organization in Alaska.
“This is our first time doing anything in Alaska,” said Dave Christen, regional director for The Ironman Group, in a news conference at the University of Alaska Southeast, the center of the three-stage race. “Juneau has the right boxes to tick.”
Ironman reached out to a number of communities in Alaska, but Juneau showed a keen and immediate interest in hosting the event, Christen said.
“This will be unlike anything I think Juneau has seen,” said Liz Perry, president and CEO of local nonprofit Travel Juneau. “We don’t have a big sports facility, but the landscape lends itself to this.”
The city expects 1,300 to 1,600 competitors plus their hangers-on, said Mayor Beth Weldon in an interview. The city will provide transportation and medical support for the event, as well assistance in making the roads safe during the event if necessary, Weldon said.
“We’ll greet each and every one of them,” Weldon said. “We’re excited this athletic event is coming to Juneau.”
Ironman reached out to Travel Juneau approximately eight months ago, Perry said. Owing to pandemic conditions, Travel Juneau will pay Ironman $50,000 for the first race, and $125,000 for the 2023 and 2024 races, to be held on the first Sunday of August each year, on the current contract. Ironman will likely look at a contract extension in about a year and a half, after clocking how Alaska’s first Ironman event went, Christen said.
“We plan to be in Juneau for a long time,” Christen said.
This full-distance Ironman will include a 3.8-kilometer swim, a 180-kilometer bike ride, and a 42.2-kilometer running portion, all run consecutively, which outdistances the Aukeman Triathlon held this weekend in Juneau by more than 200 kilometers. For comparison, a regulation marathon is 42.2 kilometers.
Iron man translates to “Gayéis Káa” in Lingít, the Tlingit language, Christen said.
“This world-class host city will demonstrate to the Ironman community a truly Alaskan experience at every turn. Native to the Juneau region are the Tlingit people, and they share a value called Haa Latséeni which means, Strength of Body, Mind and Spirit,” Christen said. “This aligns well with what it takes to be an Ironman athlete and that ‘Anything is possible!’”
The one-day race will be anchored around University of Alaska Southeast, with the swimming portion in Auke Lake, the bike portion going Out the Road and the running portion including laps toward Montana Creek and Kaxdigoowu Heen Dei Trail, according to Ironman organizers.
Local artist Crystal Kaakeeyaa Worl was commissioned to create the unique logo for the Juneau Ironman race, according to the news release, reflecting Juneau’s Alaska Native heritage.
“I am thrilled to share Tlingit art and cultural values on Áak’w Ḵwáan territory,” Worl said in the news release. “The salmon symbolizes the strength, resilience, and endurance it takes for the journey home to spawn.”
Regular registration for the Juneau Ironman event will open on Aug. 23, 2021, with priority registration opening a week earlier on Aug. 16, according to organizers.
Juneau residents would be given priority in registering for the event, Christen said. Registration for similar Ironman events in the United States cost $800, according to prices on the Ironman website. Those who qualify will receive the opportunity to compete in the 2022 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii based on their performance at the Juneau Ironman.
“Be prepared for rain,” Weldon said to potential entrants.