Mark Allen won the IRONMAN World Championship six times in Kona, so there are few people better placed than the GOAT to respond to Wednesday’s huge announcement about the future of the event.
IRONMAN confirmed the rumours that from 2023 the World Championship will have two host locations. No longer will both men’s and women’s races take annually in Kona – instead the Big Island will share duties with a second, as yet unnamed location.
That second host location – heavily rumoured to be Nice, France though IRONMAN says a final decision has not yet been made – will play host to the men’s race in 2023, with the women racing in Kona.
The positives of the IM plan
Allen responded to the news with a typically measured take, outlining the positives but also posing one burning question which will doubtless be on the lips of many athletes and pundits.
Firstly he looked at the problems this IM plan potentially solves, telling us: “This is quite an interesting development – it is a solution to a couple of things. Firstly there are just so many people doing Ironman events worldwide now, but the opportunity to qualify for the World Championships has not been able to expand because the pier in Kona just can’t hold any more athletes.
“So earning a slot has become more and more difficult. Two locations for the World Championship does open up more opportunity for people to qualify.”
IRONMAN confirmed that a major reason for the changes is the fact the local community and infrastructure in Hawaii cannot cope with two race days. Allen backs up that fact.
He explained: “Two full Ironman races in three days is just too much for the Kona community and for the volunteers and staff. It works great for the 70.3 Championships, but not for the full distance.
“Having two days of racing also makes it much easier to highlight the top men and women, much more than when they both shared the same day.”
Can new location replace Kona X factor?
So those are the positive points about this massive strategic change, but what about the unanswered questions. And the potential downside – namely can anywhere else recreate what Kona provides, the history and iconic nature of that special week in early October.
Allen told us: “The real question that comes to my mind though is what will make the race outside of Kona sing? What will be incorporated into the experience there that leave the athletes saying, no it wasn’t Kona, but it was so amazing and so worth it.”
Whatever happens, and even if that question eventually has a positive answer, Mark says IRONMAN must balance the need for evolution with honouring the roots the sport put down in Hawaii.
“I look forward to seeing what that something extra is that the new location provides, and of course always keeping the knowledge alive that this whole thing called Ironman was born in Hawaii, has it’s roots there and will always be priceless because of the influence the Island and the people of Hawaii have had on the race, and thus the sport overall.”