4 Aug 2024

Let’s race… IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda

Thinking about racing IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda? Our race guide is your comprehensive resource with everything you need to know about this challenging, but exceptionally scenic, middle distance race.
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Jenny Lucas-Hill

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An event where you can do a triathlon one day and go on a safari the next? IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda is part race, part adventure! With insights from previous age group finishers and training tips from a former Olympian. Writer and triathlete, Jenny Lucas-Hill, takes a look at everything you need to know about taking on this challenging, but incredibly unique middle distance race.

Hosted in Rubavu (Gisenyi), IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda isn’t just any race: it’s a bucket list adventure. With incredible scenery, and even the promise of spotting all sorts of wildlife including lions, rhinos and gorillas. This middle distance race in the heart of Africa’s most popular tourist destination is the ultimate race-cation for an unforgettable experience.

Featuring a challenging bike course and plenty of elevation on the run, this is a race that gives you the opportunity to test your limits and experience everything this tropical getaway has to offer.

Experience a unique race like no other, in an incredible location

Location - Tropical paradise

IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda is hosted in Rubavu (Gisenyi). Nestled on the northern shores of Lake Kivu, here you’ll find stunning beaches and a laidback tropical vibe, with a backdrop of glittering emerald waters and impressive mountains. The city itself is a hub of vibrant, Rwandan culture with an incredibly friendly community of business owners and a rich art, music, dance and culinary scene.

Rubavu is the gateway to some of Rwanda’s must-see tourist locations. With several of the national parks in close proximity, this is probably one of the only triathlons going where you can include spotting elephants, leopards, lions and gorillas in your race week activities! The mountainous terrain makes for a challenging race course, but the breath-taking scenery and a lively race day atmosphere are sure to provide you with all the motivation you need to tackle the climbs.

Safari adventure meets tropical getaway. IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda gives you a unique way to experience everything this astounding destination has to offer.

Athlete & spectator accessibility

The team at 70.3 Rwanda say it’s a priority to make the event as accessible as possible for both spectators and athletes with disabilities to be a part of race day. The gala venue and expo village are both accessible. And for spectators ramps have been installed to give an elevated view of the finish line. Volunteers and race staff will be on hand to provide assistance as needed. You can get in touch with the race organisers at to raise any questions about accessibility.

Why race... IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda

A challenging course to make the finish line even sweeter. Amazing scenery and heartfelt support from the local community. And the opportunity to turn your race in the vacation of a lifetime by visiting the incredible National Parks. There are plenty of reasons to add IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda to your race calendar. We caught up with some previous finishers, and here’s what they loved about the race.

Magnificent views and a rewarding race course
Lively support from locals and visitors alike
Ultimate destination race filled with culture

Course - Challenging but beautiful

The course at IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda takes you on a scenic adventure through the rolling, mountain-backed terrain along the shoreline of Lake Kivu. Which means plenty of challenging elevation to tackle along the way. Rubavu is just shy of 1500 metres above sea level, bringing the altitude-factor. Be prepared for a tough – but incredibly rewarding – day out on the race course.

Swim - 1.9km / 1.2 miles

Start your day with a one-lap swim course in Lake Kivu, one of the African Great Lakes. Entering the water from a small pier close to Gisenyi beach, expect a pleasantly warm water temperature - typically 24 degrees Celsius - as you make your way round the 1.9km loop.

BIke - 90km / 56 miles

Get ready to take on some climbing as you exit T1. The rolling bike course is a 4 lap route which travels through rural villages along the Lake Kivu shoreline. The total elevation gain is 1554 metres, and you’ll find yourself taking on some challenging hills as well as technical descents. The reward is amazing views, and plenty of enthusiastic spectators along the route.

Run - 21.1km / 13.1 miles

The run at IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda is a three lap course looping around the shoreline and into the town itself. Like the bike course, the run course is rolling with a steady hill to run up around the halfway point of each loop.

Race training & prep

Your training for IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda needs to include hills – there’s no escaping that, with over 1500m elevation gain on the bike and a rolling run course to back it up. Stuart Hayes is a former PRO triathlete, London 2012 Olympian and a triathlon coach who raced in Rwanda in 2022. He describes the bike course as “technical with a lot of climbing” and recommends that you make sure your training prepares you to “not only cycle hills, but also run up hills.”

It’s important to remember that a hilly course will also involve being able to descend with confidence, so try to work on your handling skills in training. But don’t let that put you off. Age-group athlete Silas M. who participated in Rwanda as his first IRONMAN 70.3 said: “Though the hills were quite a challenge, the general mood and atmosphere delivered great energy… There were a few sections of the bike course with very tight downhill cornering. All in all, I had fun and would recommend it.”

Once you arrive in Rubavu, the race organisers state that there are training facilities nearby making ticking off those final few sessions before race day easy. They also say that there’s limited traffic in the local area, meaning you can enjoy quiet roads on the bike and get to grips with the rolling hills in the build up to race day.

The 2024 edition of IRONMAN Rwanda 70.3 will offer qualification slots for the 2025 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Marbella. The number of slots allocated to each age group is decided on race day, depending on how many athletes start in each category. In the last few years there’s typically been a total of 30 qualification slots on offer.

Travel & accommodation

Rwanda might seem like a far flung destination, but Kigali airport is served by several international airlines. It takes around 3-4 hours by road to get from the airport to Rubavu, however transfers can be arranged (including helicopter transfers if you want to arrive in style!) via the IRONMAN website.

Visitors must have a visa, with certain countries exempt and those who are nationals of Commonwealth countries granted a free 30-day visa upon arrival. Check the guidance for your country of residence before you travel to make sure you have the correct documentation.

There is a range of accommodation on offer close to the race venue, including Lake Kivu Serena Hotel, Gorillas Lake Kivu Hotel and Elevate Suites Hotel. IRONMAN have a travel partner who can help visitors to arrange both race accommodation and safari trips during their stay, with information available on the race website.

Spectators - lively atmosphere

Rubavu certainly puts on a show when race day rolls around, with the friendly local community and visiting spectators alike creating a lively atmosphere as they line the course to cheer the athletes on.

The athlete village is a great base for spectators to support their athlete during the swim, and to be part of the celebrations at the finish line. There’s also a cultural expo at the athletes village where spectators can experience a range of local activities including Imingongo painting and local dancing, as well as enjoying local food and beverages.

Race-cation - Relax, explore, adventure

The Rubavu area  is a fantastic base to experience a taste of everything Africa has to offer. The beaches on the shores of Lake Kivu are a great place to relax and enjoy the tropical weather post-race. But the lake is also a hive of activity, with night fishing, kayaking and even white water rafting on offer.

For coffee-lovers, the area is home to several coffee plantations and you can take a coffee boat tour to go and sample the local brew while also discovering the process of how coffee is made. Rubavu also marks the start of the Congo Nile Trail, a 227km-long trail extending towards Rusizi which eucalpytus tree-lined roads which wind through the hills and mountains alongside the lake.

Rubavu itself is home to a vibrant community of business owners and local artisans, bustling with art, music and dance alongside local culinary delights. IRONMAN works closely with the locals and participates in the monthly “Umuganda” country-wide general cleaning day. This means the race is well-received and well-supported by the community.

Perhaps what makes IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda such a special destination race is the proximity to the National Parks. Head to Akagera National Park and you can spot lions, rhinos, buffalos, elephants and leopards in their natural habitat. Rwanda is also one of only three countries where you can see mountain gorillas – a trip to The Volcanoes National Park is a must-do as part of your race-cation.

Experience a unique race like no other, in an incredible location

Race in the heart of Africa, surrounded by stunning scenery, mountainous rainforests – and even gorillas! Known for its welcoming, friendly community IRONMAN 70.3 Rwanda promises an unforgettable race experience.

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