More than 1,200 athletes compete in Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Race

Published: Jun. 4, 2023 at 4:48 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The third annual Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge competition took over the valley Sunday.

The course contained a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike ride, ending with a half marathon race.

“Out of all the IRONMANs I’ve done – this is the most beautiful venue we have went to,” said participant Haley Reber, “The mountains, the trees, the green, the greenway is gonna be amazing to run on this afternoon.”

11 years ago, Reber couldn’t ride her bike for more than 3 miles. Sunday, she participated in her fifth IRONMAN. Reber was one of more than 12 hundred triathletes pushing their bodies to the limit.

“I was very out of shape. I had younger children and I just decided that I needed to be healthier for them,” explained Reber. “And then my journey began. So, I started with a small sprint triathlon and I was just addicted to it.”

Michael Chronert was the first man to cross the finish line Sunday

“It feels amazing,” said Chronert. “The course is just absolutely beautiful. Being up in the forest (is) like surreal.”

He says the competition is about more than just coming in first or last.

“The true beauty of this sport isn’t honestly winning things; it’s like people challenging themselves to do something to better themselves,” added Chronert.

Carilion Clinic IRONMAN Medical Director Steve Cromer says they are happy to show each visitor what the Roanoke Valley has to offer.

“Such an amazing opportunity for our community. It’s an amazing opportunity for our hospital. It’s an amazing opportunity for medical personnel and all of our volunteers,” explained Cormer. “And I am so proud to be part of it.”

Along the course, got a little boost from hundreds of spectators. Family, friends, and neighbors were all across the Roanoke Valley waiting to cheer on the participants. Some of them even joined a live stream watch party at the IRONMAN Village.

Many fans waited as the athletes made the transition from the bike portion to the half marathon. Paula Patterson was looking forward to the special moment when three of her family members crossed the finish line.

“You really have to support them when they commit to doing this,” said Patterson. “My husband started training over six to eight months ago for this. Same with the other two training. So, you gotta be there in the background to support them.”

Everyone waiting was proud to see their loved ones commit to and complete the challenge.

The IRONMAN will be on pause starting next year due to construction along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Officials say they will use the time to make improvements.