While Ironman events are highly popular and (some would say overly prestigious), it is important not to overlook the value of local triathlon races. They’re easy to get to, cheaper, and often quite a bit more fun than Ironman—the company that has almost single handedly erased many of these grass roots races over the past 20 years.
Grass roots triathlon races are a vital component of your local triathlon community. They provide a platform for athletes of all levels to compete, from beginners to experienced triathletes. Unlike Ironman events, local races tend to be more accessible and affordable, making them an ideal entry point for those new to the sport. This inclusivity helps to promote the growth and diversity of the triathlon community—something we can all agree is important to improve upon in a predominantly rich, white-person sport.
Supporting local triathlon races also helps to build a stronger sense of your own tri community. Triathlon races are often organized by local clubs and organizations, which means that they are run by people who are passionate about the sport and invested in their local community. Participating in local races allows athletes to connect with other triathletes, volunteers, and spectators in their area, fostering a sense of camaraderie and support. Moreover, supporting local races promotes the growth of the sport at the grassroots level, which can help to develop the next generation of triathletes, and keep people involved in the sport longer. There are a lot of people seeking to cross off an Ironman on their bucket list before quickly moving on to the next thing, but not everyone wants to simply dabble. Grassroots races help keep triathletes in the sport longer.
Another key advantage of local triathlon races is that they tend to be more environmentally sustainable. Ironman events often require significant resources to organize, including large amounts of water and energy. Additionally, Ironman events typically involve long-distance travel for athletes and their support teams, which can result in a higher carbon footprint. By supporting local races, athletes can minimize their environmental impact while still enjoying the thrill and challenge of triathlon.
Local races also provide athletes with the opportunity to give back to their community. Many local races rely on volunteers to help with organization and logistics, and athletes can often contribute their time and skills to support these events. By volunteering, athletes can make a positive impact on their community, meet new people, and gain valuable experience in event management.
Finally, local races offer athletes a chance to hone their skills and improve their performance. While Ironman events are certainly challenging, local races provide a more frequent and accessible opportunity for athletes to compete and push themselves. Participating in local races can help athletes to refine their training strategies, develop race-day tactics, and build their confidence and experience. They don’t have to be B or C races, but if you have a larger or more important travel event in the summer, don’t hesitate to throw in a few local races to help your preparation.
While Ironman and 70.3 events may still be considered the pinnacle of triathlon races for age groupers, local races are a crucial part of the sport’s ecosystem. By supporting local races, athletes can help to build a stronger community, promote inclusivity and diversity, reduce their environmental impact, and give back to their community. Moreover, local races provide athletes with valuable opportunities to compete, develop their skills, and achieve their personal goals. So next time you’re considering signing up for an Ironman event, take a moment to consider the benefits of supporting your local triathlon race instead.