With the recent announcement that the Ironman World Championship will feature two days of racing again in 2023, with one day dedicated specifically to women’s racing, the 2023 Ironman World Championship will likely feature the largest field ever. So, if Kona is your dream, what’s the best race for you to try and qualify?
For a complete list of the qualifying races and the number of slots available at each race, click here.
So how does qualifying work?
To qualify for the world championship in Hawaii you need to finish well in your age group at another Ironman event. (There are a couple of 70.3 races that offer Ironman slots – Ironman 70.3 Hawaii offers 30 age group slots and 26 Hawaii resident slots for the world championship, while Ironman 70.3 Luxembourg and Lubbock offer hand cycle qualifying slots.) There is at least one slot available in every age group, with more slots allotted based on the number of participants in each age category. So, the categories with the largest number of competitors will offer more slots. If a winner chooses not to accept their slot, it “rolls down” to the next athlete until the spot is handed out.
Women For Tri Events
If you’re a woman the answer to the “easiest spot to qualify” question is at one of the designated Women For Tri events. Ironman will be handing out an additional 1,200 slots to women at those events. They include:
- Ironman Chattanooga – 100
- Ironman Arizona – 100
- Ironman Western Australia – 50
- Ironman New Zealand – 50
- Ironman African Championship – South Africa – 65
- Ironman Texas – 65
- Ironman European Championship – Hamburg – 65
- Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship – Cairns – 65
- Ironman Coeur d’Alene -100
- Ironman France – 50
- Ironman UK – 50
- Ironman Vitoria-Gasteiz – 50
- Ironman Lake Placid – 100
- Ironman Kalmar – 100
- Ironman Ireland – 50
- Ironman Mont-Tremblant – 100
- Ironman Copenhagen – 100
Based on the numbers of qualifying slots, it’s definitely advantageous to compete at the North American events if you’re a woman and gunning after that spot – five of the events in North American offer 100 slots, while just two in Europe do.
In terms of the number of spots available, the Ironman regional qualifiers have more than other Ironman races for both men and women. Those races include:
- Ironman African Championship (South Africa) – 100
- Ironman Americas Championship (Texas) – 100
- Ironman European Championship (Frankfurt, Germany) – 100
If you’re willing to travel, there are a few races that don’t always have as large or as competitive a field. Ironman Argentina, for example, offered 75 slots in 2019 and had just 638 competitors.
For those who haven’t ever been able to crack the Kona-qualifying code, Ironman has a “legacy” program that allows athletes who have completed 12 full-distance Ironman races and who have never competed in Kona to apply for a “special slot” to the race.
Qualifying for Kona is hard. The competition at the front of any age category these days is incredibly competitive. The top age group athletes at any race routinely post finishing times as fast as many of the pros.
If you do feel like you are ready to compete for a spot, it is worth assessing your own strengths and weaknesses to determine which course might best suit you. If you are a strong cyclist on extremely hilly courses, it’s worth looking at events like Ironman Lanzarote or Nice, where the bike ride features lots of climbing. If you are a “strength” oriented athlete who does well in tough conditions on a hard course, Ironman Wales might be your best option. If speed is the name of your game, Ironman Austria or the Ironman European Championship are worth a look, but remember that those races typically draw a competitive field.
Yeah, that probably wasn’t the best word to put in the headline. Qualifying for Kona is tough. That said, with 1,200 extra qualifying slots being offered to women for the 2023 race, there will definitely be some races that will be a lot “easier” to earn that coveted slot over the next year.