First published Friday, September 12, 2014
This weekend the south of Pembrokeshire sees Ironman fever take a firm hold. With somewhere in the region of 2,000 competitors descending on the county, from across the world, the flags are out, the bells primed for ringing, whistles and banners prepared and hung as the warm Pembrokeshire welcome is extended.
Since the first Ironman Wales took place here in 2010, the event has grown in popularity and reputation, with an increasing number of local participants getting involved – this year sees 191 Pembrokeshire residents amongst the line up. The popular Ironkids event has been expanded to include a broader age range, and makes the event even more family focussed in that respect, as competitors families and locals alike take part.
With professional athletes taking part alongside amateurs racing to raise money for charity, the Ironman Wales event has come to be a significant part of the Pembrokeshire calendar. Naturally it has generated a not insignificant income for the county, as accommodation providers across the county welcome competitors and their support crews, friends and families, with many returning to the same venue year on year. Businesses have adapted to their slightly unusual guests well, making provisions for secure bike storage, early breakfasts and more, and often ensuring that they spend part of the day out on the route at some point to cheer on their visitors.
It is true, that on occasion the event has not always been warmly welcomed by some, and the impact of road closures for some people is noted, however it can also be said that the various authorities involved have worked hard to minimise the inconvenience as far as possible.
Feedback each year from competitors and visitors to the area supporting friends and families has made much of the warm Pembrokeshire welcome, the strong sense of community and the consistently high level of support for all competitors. We’ve heard reports of residents in New Hedges staying out on the roadside right to the end (competitors have to have crossed the finish line by midnight or face disqualification) cheering on those who are flagging as the end draws closer. When you consider that they will have been active since 7am, swimming 2.4 miles in the sea, cycling 112 miles across variable terrain heights and then running 26.2 miles, those cheers of support make a huge difference, to the point of being the difference between giving up or carrying on to the end.
So, as the flags are once again unfurled, the banners raised, and the bells rung out loud and proud, the team here at Pembrokeshire Tourism are wishing all competitors the very best for the weekend and a successful outcome to their races.