PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB)– This year many races have been canceled in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, but it looks like Panama City Beach Ironman will take place after all. This Saturday, thousands of racers will compete in both the Ironman Florida and the Ironman Gulf Coast.
Despite the race looking a little different this year, racers came from all over the country excited about the opportunity.
“I came in town just for the race ,I actually live in the chicago suburbs,” competitor, Karah Osterberg said.
“Me and my wife came in from Houston, Texas,” competitor, Scott Kossoudji said.
This race will be the first full ironman in North America since the pandemic began.
“Ironman is pretty much my life. This is my 13th Ironman race that I’m doing,” Osterberg said.
While it may not be the first go around for some runners, this race takes on a whole new meaning.
“This is the first race that I have scheduled for this year, the other two were canceled and I was convinced that this one was going to be canceled, but Ironman has done a great job on making this as safe as possible,” Kossoudji said.
While this event typically sees close to 3,000 athletes, a little more than half are participating this year.
But even with fewer athletes competing, tourism officials say the event still brings an economic boost to the area.
“We’ve got roughly 1,800 competitors in this year’s event so that turns into 12,000 room nights which is a $5 million revenue for the month of November due to Ironman,” Public relations Manager for Visit PCB, Lacee Rudd said.
Typically, Panama City Beach hosts two separate Ironman races, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. Both brought it in nearly $10 million dollars to the area last year.
Not only does the race bring in millions of dollars to the area, but the Ironman Foundation will also be donating more than $60,000 to local charitable donations.
This year they are focusing on COVID-19 relief, but haven’t announced which specific organizations they’ll be helping just yet.