Race participants react to cancellation of 2020 Ironman event in Tempe

Each year, thousands of triathletes arrive in Tempe for the big Ironman race, but due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, organizers announced that it will no longer take place on Nov. 22.

The event consists of a 2.4-mile (~1.6km) swim, a 112-mile (~180km) bike ride, and a marathon that is 26.2 miles (~41.16km). In the past, 62 countries have been represented in the Tempe race.

"The family and friends also participate, and other fans spectators," said Brian McCartin, President and CEO of the Tempe Tourism Office. "There are roughly 13,000 to 14,000 people that come to town as a result of the Ironman challenge."

McCartin says the race usually brings in $4 million to the local economy, but he says that is not what is the most important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"The health and safety of the athletes and the City of Tempe and the community is of the upmost importance," said McCartin.

The announcement was heartbreaking for so many athletes, many of whom have been training for more than a year, logging and putting in the miles. Only to be told they can no longer race in 9 days.

"I don't know what to do. I am at a loss," said Leslie Hoffman. She and her husband just arrived in Arizona, having travelled all the way from Alaska, for the Ironman competition.

"It was a lot just to get here, and now it is, 'what do we do now?'" said Hoffman.

Since last January, Hoffman and her husband have been training, and logged thousands of miles biking, swimming and running, all in an effort to make their dreams of becoming ironmen a reality.

"With precautions, I think it really could have went well, but so if we had to cancel, I wish it would have been done sooner," said Hoffman.

The Hoffmans are not the only ones in this tough situation, as about 3,000 athletes compete in the race. Now, the Hoffmans, as well as other athletes, need to come up with Plan B, so all of their training doesn't go to waste.

"This was going to be our first Ironman," said Hoffman. "We expected to fly home saying we were Ironman, but that would have to be next year."

In Ironman's statement, officials told athletes that they will plan to return in 2021.

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