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IRONMAN Wales makes it return to Pembrokeshire

Written by Anita Lee on

There is something uniquely special about an IRONMAN race. A true measure of athletic ability, endurance, grit and one’s ability to resist complete pain and suffering, the ultimate race is ready to test individuals in Pembrokeshire again this September.

Pembrokeshire is the host county for IRONMAN Wales and is rightly famous for its coastline, which is protected by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Parks authority, and boasts more castles than any other county in the UK. Its rocky coastline, hills and valleys, and quaint Welsh villages all claim their piece of this great race. With television coverage, hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators, the event has a huge economic impact on the region.

IRONMAN Wales is now well established as having one of the most challenging bike and run courses on the IRONMAN calendar. There are 41 such races throughout the year, including regional championship events and the big race – the World Championships held on the Kona Coast in Hawai’i. All of the races entail a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile marathon. 

In the Welsh version, Tenby's North Beach is home to what many consider the series’ most spectacular swim location. Leaving from Tenby, the bike course leads south from the village. The course takes riders out as far as Angle before heading back across the county, north towards Narberth. The course has nearly 7,000 feet of climbs on it.

For veterans of the IRONMAN, the prospect of a marathon after all that is not as daunting as it is to mere mortals. Hearty racers will enjoy a looped course that takes them in and out of Tenby village for just over 26 miles.  

As an added bonus for this year’s race, organisers are offering 50 qualifying slots for the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawai’i.

Although those racing are more concerned with challenges on the course, their mere presence in Pembrokeshire is extremely important to the local economy. The country thrives on tourism – from their annual fishing festivals, to pristine beaches, and castle venues. And with holidaymakers choosing Pembrokeshire cottage retreats for their stay, the triathlon is another draw for tourists to the region.

Estimates have been that the area receives a £4m economic boost from the Ironman Wales weekend. That infusion of cash injection from athletes and visitors does not include the money generated by race preparations and training events held in the days, weeks and months preceding the actual race.

There is also a great benefit from national and international television coverage generated by such a high profile event.

That publicity is “something money can’t buy,” according to Councillor Rob Lewis, Pembrokeshire County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for major events. With as many as 40,000 spectators attending last year’s race, Lewis described the 2014 Ironman Wales as “simply awesome”. 

"We are thrilled to support Ironman Wales," Lewis told the Western Telegraph. "It's a fantastic event which the people of Pembrokeshire have embraced in greater numbers every year, and is a wonderful chance to put our county on the map."

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority actively supports the race. Their director of delivery and discovery, James Parkin, has said the attention gained is very important to the county and the National Park.

“In addition to the economic benefits, the event highlights the importance of the National Park landscape to tourism and helps boost the number of people enjoying the outdoors to keep fit and healthy,” Parkin said.

Anita Lee

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