AUGUSTA — When the Ironman 70.3 returns to Maine this year, it will be in the state’s capital after several years in Old Orchard Beach.

The announcement by race officials came Tuesday, setting July 31 as the date for the endurance event.

“The Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce is excited to host and welcome an Ironman 70.3 event to Augusta,” Katie Doherty, president and chief executive officer of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement posted on the organization’s Facebook Page.

“This is going to be a huge economic impact for our region and members,” Doherty said. “I am excited to showcase our area to all of the athletes and guests.”

The Ironman 70.3 is essentially a half ironman triathlon because the total distance covered in each leg is half the distance covered in an ironman triathlon. Athletes will cover 70.3 miles total, with a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run.

While the course of the race has apparently not yet been finalized, the Kennebec River is the planned site of a downriver swim and the running portion is set for the Kennebec River Rail Trail and continues through Augusta and surrounding communities.

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Events like this can typically draw 2,000 to 2,500 athletes, many of whom will travel to locations with a partner or family members and often stretch the trip into a mini-vacation.

Sarah Fuller, a triathlete from Winthrop, said Wednesday that holding the race in central Maine is good news for local athletes, because they are familiar with area and they can show off where they train to athletes coming in from around the country.

Sarah Fuller poses for a portrait on April 3, 2020, while training for a triathlon in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Fuller, who is also the president of the Winthrop Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, has been watching the process as the Ironman organization’s contract was up in Old Orchard Beach, and it was looking for a new location in the state.

“The Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, the (Augusta) Downtown Alliance and the city of Augusta put together a pretty attractive package for Ironman to consider,” she said.

Fuller said the race agreement should be a three-year contract, so the capital region will get to showcase itself for the next few years and draw growth opportunities to Augusta and its surrounding communities.

Kim Howard, executive director of the Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday that she was aware the organization was thinking of moving the event, but she was not privy to the process.

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“Old Orchard is just not that big of a community,” said Howard, who started working for the Old Orchard chamber just before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. “Even though it was based here, it was using other surrounding towns, and that always presents challenges. That’s my understanding of it.”

“It’s not uncommon for folks to stay, eat and explore surrounding communities,” she said.

Planning for the logistics of the race is expected to take some time.

Earl Kingsbury, director of Community Services for the city of Augusta, said city and state organizations, from Augusta Public Works to the state Department of Marine Resources are part of the planning process.

“The good thing is, we have a great working relationship with the chamber,” Kingsbury said. “What drew me to the city 33 years ago was the community involvement and the customer service aspect that’s here — what can we do to help?”

Kingsbury said whether the community had the capacity to support an event of this scale was worked out in a series of preliminary meetings with the race organization. Now that the decision has been made, work can start in planning course for the race and

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“It’s a complete city buy-in from all departments,” he said.

That includes the airport, he said, for which the Kennebec River is a second runway in the summer for float planes.

“This will bring millions of dollars for the region,” he said, noting that competitors are likely to stay within about an hour’s drive of Augusta for the race. “It’s going to be a big boost to the economy. It’s a windfall.”

Fuller competes in several 70.3’s over the course of a year, and it’s her favorite distance race and it poses a challenge to athletes of all kinds and abilities.

“Volunteering and spectating an Ironman triathlon is a pretty inspirational and fun thing to do,” she said. “There’ll be opportunities for people to staff aid stations along the bike and run route. Whether you know someone in the race or not, it’s a pretty awesome thing to witness, people pushing themselves to do this sort of accomplishment.”

A request for comment from The Ironman Group was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Registration for the race will open Monday, Jan. 31. The race will feature qualifying slots for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

“There’s such great energy and positivity around the sport of triathlon,” Fuller said. “I hope it inspires a lot of folks.”


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