In 2009, 583 triathletes from 23 countries gathered to participate in the first Ironman 70.3 race in the Philippines. Eight years later, that number has grown to 2,900 participants from 43 countries, making it by far the largest triathlon even in the history of the Philippines – The Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship.
According to Sunrise Events’ Princess Galura, the scale of the Championship was clear when race slots were sold out in 23 minutes, including those snapped up by 30 champions from past races. In addition to the Asia-Pacific titles, 50 slots to the World Championships were up for grabs.
Fittingly for such a prestigious event, Swiss-born Alaska Tri-Aspire team member Caroline Steffen was crowned Pro Women’s Champion for the fifth year in a row, edging out race leader Czech Republic’s Radka Vodickova in the run portion.
In similar measure, Steffen’s teammates performed exceedingly well, with Tim Reed successfully defending his title to win the Men’s Championship, while fellow Australian Sam Betten came in at third place. In perhaps the most heartwarming story of the day, Pinoy Tri-Aspire member August Benedicto gave himself a belated birthday present when he finished as top Pinoy male, claiming his title of Filipino Elite Champion for the 4th time.
In the days leading up to the race, participants were treated to a taste of Sinulog, with flourishes such as fire dancers at the carbo loading dinner the night before, and an early morning run out that doubled as a community outreach program at the Mactan Elementary Public School.
When asked if racing in the Philippines really is more fun, Pro Women’s Fifth Placer Dimity Lee Duke told PlayPH that the Cebu 70.3 experience is in a class of its own, and one that every serious triathlete had to include on their bucket lists. The opinion was echoed by retired tri legend Belinda Granger, who cited the thousands of cheering spectators who turned out annually to line the streets as an amazing source of encouragement and positivity for the grueling event.
Indeed, as each participants crossed the finish line, the sense of happiness and accomplishment they felt was apparent on each of their faces; despite their exertions, they knew they had completed one of the most demanding competitions in the world.
Following a sumptuous lunch and awarding ceremony, a glorious after-party was on the grounds of the Shangri-La Mactan resort. As pros mingled with amateurs against the backdrop of a fireworks display that had everyone cheering, everyone involved knew, this race would be one to remember.