On September 29, 2015 Ironman announced that Chattanooga, Tennessee had been selected to hosted the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Unlike previous Ironman World Championship events, the 2017 event will take place over two days — professional and age-group women will race on Saturday, September 9, 2017 and the professional and age-group men will race on Sunday, September 10, 2017. Instead of holding one race with approximately 3000 athletes (the 2015 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in 2015 had 2738 athletes — 1855 male athletes and 833 female athletes), Ironman will hold two races. This begs two questions:
- How many athletes will be able to qualify for the 2017 event; and
- If the men’s and women’s races are taking place on separate days, will there be equal numbers of women and men (both age group and professional)?
Ironman is a business. If they’re going to put on a race, it makes financial sense to fill the race to capacity on both days. Let’s say the Chattanooga course can hold 2200 athletes (the 2015 edition of the Chattanooga 70.3 had 2214 athletes), I would expect that Ironman would look to fill the course with 2200 athletes on both Saturday and Sunday meaning a total of 4400 or so qualifying slots would be up for grabs. Now if, as Ironman states, the women’s race will take place on Saturday and the men’s race will take place on Sunday, it appear that there will be 2200 qualifying slots for men and 2200 qualifying slots for women. Equality!
At this point in time Ironman has said nothing about qualifying for 2017, but given the separate race days, something is going to change — how else could Ironman fill the races to capacity and collect the attendant (and somewhat exorbitant) $800+ registration fee? If Ironman offers equal slots to age group men and women, what possible motivation / explanation/ excuse can they come up with for the continuing inequality in the professional ranks? Perhaps the split of the men’s and women’s fields into two separate races on two separate days in 2017 is the first sign for equality for both professional and age group athletes.
Update 10/10/2015 — WTC announced that there will be equal number of slots for male and female professional athletes at the 2017 70.3 World Championships. Still no word on age groupers.
In 2017 the WTC will make the Ironman 70.3 World Championships a two-day event with men and women racing separately. The format will allow the same number of professionals to race each day.
“And so, we’re looking forward to that very much because, maybe, we’re going to conclude that having 50 men and 50 women is the right thing, and we don’t care if there is a different standard,” Messick says, noting, however, that in Kona the logistics of multiple race days might be insurmountable. “So I think that is going to teach us a lot about what the right path forward is.”