Thousands of athletes are set to descend on Tenby and its surrounding areas over the weekend, with the sporting spectacular that is Ironman Wales returning to Pembrokeshire.

The triathlon takes place on Sunday, September 3, beginning with athletes lining up on the famous North Beach for a goosebump inducing swim start preceded by the Welsh National Anthem which is a spectacle in itself.

Once completing the 2.4-mile swim course, they will make the long run up the ‘zig zag’ stairs and into transition, which is a once in a lifetime experience for any triathlete.

The bike course consists of a 112-mile route through the scenic countryside of Pembrokeshire Coast National Parkand follows onto the four-loop 26.2-mile run course.

Ironman Wales
(Pic. Gareth Davies Photography)

It takes athletes past the medieval town walls and picturesque beachfront, which is lined with tens of thousands of spectators that will push themall the way to the finish line.

The weekend will see around 3,000 athletes competing in Ironman Wales, and with 93% of the athletes coming from the UK, the race is set to feel like a real home affair.

The remainder of athletes are from all over the world in countries such as Germany, Switzerland and France.

The race will see many inspirational athletes taking part such as Michael McAleavey who after attempting Ironman Wales in 2017 was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

In the spirit of never giving up and showing that anything is possible, Michael is back in 2023 to complete his mission.

Michael Lane is also taking part since recovering from a heart attack and thyroid cancer in 2021.

He completed three Ironman 70.3 races last year including the World Championship and is here in Tenby to smash a full distance race this year.

It wouldn’t be a Welsh race without some ex-rugby pros in attendance. This year Alix Popham is taking on the challenge in aid of his charity Head for Change.

Head for Change is a start-up charitable foundation, pioneering positive change for brain health in sport and supporting ex-players who are affected by neurodegenerative disease as a result of their professional sporting career in football or rugby.

Other notable rugby stars Shane Williams and Nia Davies will also be taking on Ironman Wales.

Shane Williams
Shane Williams taking part in a previous Ironman (Observer pic)

This year, for the first time ever, Welsh Triathlon have added an Ironman distance event to their ranks as Ironman Wales will be the Welsh National Championship race.

Welsh Triathlon’s CEO, Beverley Lewis, said: “Welsh Triathlon is delighted to be partnering with Ironman to deliver our first ever Long Distance National Championship event.

“Ironman Wales is such an important part of the triathlon calendar in Wales for competitors and spectators alike, that to add the ability for Welsh Triathlon members to compete for a podium in Tenby is exciting”.

Tenby’s Mayor, Cllr Dai Morgan will be on hand at the finish line on the Esplanade congratulating finishers and giving out their medals as they complete their grueling challenge.

The Mayor will also be speaking at the awards ceremony on the Monday morning.

As well as the triathlon on the Sunday, the Saturday also plays host to Ironkids Wales, where over 2,000 children will take to the streets to experience the feeling of running down the magic red carpet finish line overlooking South Beach.

Kids aged 4-15 will take on either a 500m, 1km or 1.5km run through Tenby, culminating under the Ironman finishing arch.

Many of the children are from local schools and have been part of a campaign to write good luck postcards for the athletes taking on Ironman Wales.

These will be given to athletes on registration.

Ironman Wales Race Director, Rebecca Sutherland, said: “We can’t wait to welcome back thousands of athletes to ‘Face the Dragon’ on September 3!

“The support of the locals in the Pembrokeshire area is unparalleled and creates a very special atmosphere onrace day. The feeling you get from the national anthem at the swim start is something that every triathlete needs to experience once in their lifetime.”

Cllr Rhys Sinnett, Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, said: “I’m proud to welcome this year’s Ironman athletes, their families and friends to Pembrokeshire.

“With our stunning coastline, charming seaside resorts, wonderful countryside trails and fascinating heritage, we’re sure your visit to Pembrokeshire will be a memorable one.

“Ironman is hugely popular here amongst both contestants and spectators, and we are very proud that our county provides such a spectacular and challenging backdrop to the event, as well as some of the most enthusiastic supporters in the world.”

Ironman Wales will also return to Tenby in 2024 with the race taking place on Sunday, September 22.