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How to Qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona

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How to qualify Ironman Kona

Imagine yourself surrounded by the top triathletes in the world at Ironman World Championship in Kona. Everyone is there supporting each other but also wants to give it their all for the world title.

But, how do you get there?

Maybe you’ve become more competitive in the long course races and want a new challenge.

Or, qualifying for Ironman World Championship Race in Kona is a goal you’ve been working towards for years. And, this is the year you want to achieve it or switch to different distances.

Whatever your goal is, we’ll cover a few basic tips along with how to even be a contender to qualify.

13 Ways To Qualify For Ironman Kona

Ironman World Championship is one of the hardest races for a triathlete to qualify for, even professional triathletes.

Not sure where to begin the search?

We’ve got you covered with a run-down of the most common ways to qualify for Ironman Kona.

1. Race at an Ironman Qualifying Event

The most common way to qualify for World Championships is to compete at an Ironman Qualifying event. The specific details would be found in the athlete guide for each race.

The standard is that there is one Kona slot available for each age group winner. And, the other slots are awarded according to the number of participants in each age group on race day.

The number of slots is limited and varies from race to race. Typically, the standard is 40-50 slots for most races. You can find information on a specific Ironman race.

Number of available slots for 2023 Ironman Kona

EVENTDATELOCATIONSLOTS
IRONMAN Vichy August 21, 2022Vichy, France55
IRONMAN Canada PentictonAugust 28, 2022Penticton, British Colombia, Canada55
IRONMAN WalesSeptember 11, 2022Pembrokeshire, Wales55
IRONMAN WisconsinSeptember 11, 2022Madison, Wisconsin55
IRONMAN Emilia RomagnaSeptember 17, 2022Emilia Romagna, Italy55
IRONMAN MarylandSeptember 17, 2022Cambridge, Maryland, USA55
IRONMAN ChattanoogaSeptember 25, 2022Chattanooga, Tenneesee, USA55
IRONMAN BarcelonaOctober 2, 2022Callela, Spain55
IRONMAN Portugal - CascaisOctober 15, 2022Cascais, Portugal55
IRONMAN WacoOctober 15, 2022Waco, Texas, USA55
IRONMAN CaliforniaOctober 23, 2022Sacramento, California55
IRONMAN FloridaNovember 5, 2022Panama City Beach, Florida, USA55
IRONMAN MalaysiaNovember 5, 2022Langkawi, Malaysia55
IRONMAN ArizonaNovember 20, 2022Tempe, Arizona55
IRONMAN CozumelNovember 20, 2022Cozumel, Mexico40
IRONMAN Israel - Middle East ChampionshipNovember 25, 2022Tiberias, Israel75
IRONMAN ArgentinaDecember 4, 2022Mar del Plata, Argentina40
IRONMAN Western AustraliaDecember 4, 2022Busselton, WA, Australia55
IRONMAN New ZealandDecember 10, 2022Taupō, Waikato, New Zealand55
IRONMAN New ZealandMarch 4, 2023Taupō, Waikato, New Zealand55
IRONMAN South Africa - African ChampionshipMarch 5, 2023Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth, South Africa100
IRONMAN TexasApril 22, 2023The Woodlands, Texas, USA100
IRONMAN AustraliaMay 7, 2023Port Macquarie, NSW, Australia75
IRONMAN LanzaroteMay 20, 2023Lanzarote, Canary Islands40
IRONMAN TulsaMay 21, 2023Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA75
IRONMAN BrazilMay 28, 2023Florianopolis, Brazil40
IRONMAN HamburgJune 4, 2023Hamburg, Germany55
IRONMAN CairnsJune 18, 2023Cairns, QLD, Australia100
IRONMAN AustriaJune 18, 2023Klagenfurt, Austria55
IRONMAN FranceJune 25, 2023Nice, France55
IRONMAN Coeur d'AleneJune 25, 2023Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, USA55
IRONMAN Frankfurt (European Championship)July 2, 2023Frankfurt, Germany100
IRONMAN UKJuly 2, 2023Bolton, England55
IRONMAN Switzerland ThunJuly 9, 2023Thun, Switzerland75
IRONMAN Vitoria-GasteizJuly 16, 2023Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain55
IRONMAN Lake PlacidJuly 23, 2023Lake Placid, New York, USA55
IRONMAN TallinnAugust 5, 2023Tallinn, Estonia40
IRONMAN AlaskaAugust 6, 2023Juneau, Alaska55
IRONMAN KalmarAugust 19, 2023Kalmar, Sweden55
IRONMAN IrelandAugust 20, 2023Youghal/Cork, Ireland55
IRONMAN Mont-TremblantAugust 20, 2023Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada55
IRONMAN CopenhagenAugust 20, 2023Copenhagen, Denmark55
IRONMAN GdyniaTBDGdynia, Poland40

How to increase your chances:

  • Pick qualifying races strategically – pick races that best fit your strengths. For example, if you excel at hills pick a hilly course. Or, if you know the type of weather conditions you perform best in, then choose a race that reflects that.
  • Reliable training plan – pick a coach or training plan on a platform such as TrainingPeaks that will be able to tailor a coaching plan towards your goals and specific body physiology.
  • Optimize gear – Do not buy a new and expensive bike to try to qualify for Kona. Instead, opt to check your current gear and get your bike refitted.

2. Race at any 70.3 Ironman Qualifying Event

Check which Half Ironman races offer slots for those who qualify for Ironman World Championships in Kona.

Number of available slots for 2023 Ironman Kona

EVENTDATELOCATIONSLOTS
IRONMAN 70.3 Western AustraliaDecember 4, 2022Busselton, WA, AustraliaHC Slots ( 1male / 1 female)
IRONMAN 70.3 Hawai`iJune 3, 2023Kohala Coast, Hawai`i, USA56 (30 AG Slots + 26 Hawai`i Resident)
IRONMAN 70.3 Luxembourg - HC SlotsJune 18, 2023Region Moselle, Luxembourg3 HC Slots (2 male + 1 female)
IRONMAN 70.3 Lubbock (HC Slots)June 25, 2023Lubbock, Texas, USA2 HC Slots (1 male + 1 female)

3. Ironman Kona Legacy Program

The Ironman Legacy Program gives an extra chance for loyal Ironman triathletes. The program was created to give athletes who have been training for years a chance to compete in the world’s most prestigious triathlon. The program is open to athletes of all ages and abilities, and provides a great opportunity for those who have dedicated their lives to the sport of triathlon.

What is the end date of the current IRONMAN Legacy Program?

For the IRONMAN Legacy program assignment year of 2023, the current application period runs through November 29, 2022 – December 31, 2022.

The number of slots varies each year.

Criteria:

  • Compete in at least twelve full-distance Ironman branded races by the end of 2019
  • Never raced in Kona
  • Raced at least one full Ironman each of the two years before applying to Ironman Legacy Program
  • Must be signed up for a full Ironman in the same application submission year 
  • To maintain eligibility must compete in at least a full or half or 5150 race each calendar year leading up to their assigned race year.

4. Ironman Foundation Kona Drawing

Every year the Ironman foundation holds a drawing where each triathlete has an equal chance to win a slot. Donations do not give you a better chance to win a slot in a Ironman lottery.

There are only five slots available through the Ironman Foundation drawing.

5. Ironman Foundation Kona Auction

The Ironman Foundation created an annual auction, which is conducted on eBay. The highest bidder gets the VIP package.

The IRONMAN World Championship Annual Kona Auction Winners Receive:

  • 1 x Team IMF race entry to the 2022 Supersapiens IRONMAN® World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i
  • 1 x Team IMF Kona race kit
  • 2 x VIP Experience Package
  • 1 x Team IMF entry into an IRONMAN® 70.3® race in 2022 and 2- night hotel stay (excluding any World Championship event)

6. Representing Women for Tri

The Women for Tri, a program initiated by the Ironman Foundation.

Women for Tri events around the world offer extra slots for female athletes to attend Ironman World Championships.

Below is a list of events that offer extra slots for 2023 IRONMAN World Championships.

DateEventExtra Women's Slots
9/25/2022IRONMAN Chattanooga100
11/20/2022IRONMAN Arizona100
12/4/2022IRONMAN W Australia50
3/4/2022IRONMAN New Zealand50
3/4/2022IRONMAN South African Champs65
3/5/2022IRONMAN Texas65
6/4/2023IRONMAN Hamburg65
6/18/2023IRONMAN Cairns65
6/25/2023IRONMAN France50
6/25/2023IRONMAN Coeur d'Alene100
7/2/2023IRONMAN UK50
7/16/2023IRONMAN Vitoria-Gasteiz50
7/23/2023IRONMAN Lake Placid100
8/19/ 2023IRONMAN Kalmar100
8/20/2023IRONMAN Ireland50
8/20/2023IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant100
8/20/2023IRONMAN Copenhagen100

7. Ironman Executive Challenge

The Ironman Executive Challenge is a program that provides VIP treatment to top-level executives who apply.

Benefits include special treatment at selected Ironman 70.3 and Full Ironman races, at a cost of $5000 to $15,000 per race.

The Ironman Executive Challenge is a program in which executives compete against each other on different Ironman races, with the goal of qualifying for Kona. You can find out more information about how to qualify here.

8. Physically Challenged Drawing

A handful of slots will be awarded to physically challenged triathletes through the drawing.

The number of slots is dependent on the year.

9. Team In Training

If you fundraise for Team in Training, you can get a guaranteed entry slot to the Kona ironman. There are limited slots available, but your fundraising will help support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

When you join Team in Training, you’re not just training for a physical goal. You’re also helping to save lives. Every dollar you raise benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which is dedicated to funding lifesaving blood cancer research and providing free information and support services for patients and their families.

And when you reach your fundraising goal, you’ll earn a guaranteed entry slot to the iconic IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii—one of the most prestigious triathlons in the world. So not only will you be changing lives, you’ll be achieving one of your own dreams in the process.

10. Military Division

The Ironman Foundation will award qualifying slots to active military athletes at specific full or half-distance Ironman races.

The number of slots varies from race to race and year to year. You’d need to check the athlete guide for whichever race you’re considering competing in.

11. Hawaii Residents Drawing

This special drawing is only for triathletes living in Hawaii. The winner will be able to buy the entry fee for participating in the World Championship race in Kona instead of qualifying through a race.

The number of slots varies from year to year

To increase the chance of qualifying, be sure to have all the documents ready to prove residency in the state.

12. Wild Card

The Ironman Foundation may offer slots if they think you earned one. A couple of winners of the Olympic games received a Wild Card.

There is not much information about how to increase your chances of getting a wild card.

13. Ironman Sports Medicine Symposium

Every year, one person at the symposium will win a race slot into the next year’s Kona Ironman World Championship. Out of all of the people who attend, only 200 people can enter the drawing.

Steps to Contend for an Ironman Kona Slot

Triathletes who want to qualify for Ironman World Championships in Kona need to know it’s a long journey.

You may not qualify for Ironman Kona at your first shot, so be prepared to be in this for a handful of years.

If you want to qualify for World Championships, then it’s a given you have a solid training plan or coach backing you up.

But what about the other aspects of your life?

How will you manage your work-life-home while training?

We’ve summarized a few important details that go beyond the training.

1. Involve Your Family and Be Realistic

Qualifying for Kona doesn’t just rest on your shoulders. You’ll need support from your family during training and especially at races.

It will take 18-20 hours per week for at least one season to qualify for the race. That means close to 1000 hours per year of training. And, if you don’t make it the first time, it means another year of dedicated hours.

Sit down with your friends and tell them what you’re thinking about and if it’s realistic for everyone close in your life.

It’s in no way discouraging your dreams, but it can impact relationships with your family members and significant others, especially if you didn’t inform them.

2. Everyone had an advantage and Disadvantage

Keep yourself humble throughout the process. If not, it might come back to you in ways you didn’t expect.

Also, don’t play too much into your weaknesses. Everyone has a weakness they’re working on. Strengthen your weakness and try not to center your entire mindset on your weakness.

3. Expect Injury and be Flexible

You’ll be putting in hundreds of hours worth of training so be prepared for some injury to happen.

Of course, you’ll build up your training volume over years but it’s always best to listen to your body.

Another tip is to consult a physical therapist before your get injured. Tell them what your goals are and how they could help you.

Include weight training and flexibility in your training. This will help immensely. Not only will it help you feel stronger during your workouts it may even help prevent injury.

Consult a nutritionist or dietician as well. Even if you have race nutrition down, still talk to someone. Eating a healthful diet benefits training and affects how well you’ll recover from injury.

4. Write out a Realistic Training Schedule

While qualifying for Ironman World Championship Race in Kona is an important personal goal, it shouldn’t get in the way of your every day and even family goals and objectives.

And, since this is purely a hobby and lifestyle, not a career there needs to be some separation between “triathlon” and “real” life.

Create a weekly schedule that accommodates most of your training and your work, family, and other personal obligations. Remember, your family is going to be there with you on race day so make sure they make it to the start line with you!

5. Remember the Big Picture

Why are you doing this?

Make sure you’re in this sport for the right reasons and leave the ego at the door.

Yes, it would be great to post on social media about your PRs and podium finishes. But what about how you feel and are you hitting your personal milestones such as nailing your nutrition or getting your wetsuit on fast?

This is a tough goal and it’s important to enjoy the ride while you get there!

We wish you all the best in your endeavor to qualify for Kona!

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Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 3 Certified Coach. Since graduating college, Ryan has coached over sixty triathletes, runners, cyclists, and swimmers. He focuses on helping them select appropriate goals and guiding them towards achieving them.

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