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Okanagan Valley to host Spartan North American Championships and Ironman Canada

August 27 to 28 looks to be an endurance-heavy weekend in Kelowna and Penticton

With triathletes from around the world looking to return to Penticton for the long-awaited return of Ironman Canada this August, Spartan has announced that it will host its North American Championship at Big White ski area near Kelowna the same weekend. Kelowna is also on Lake Okanagan, and is about 100 km from Penticton. It’s the first time the Spartan North American Championship will be held outside the United States.

Precious Penticton: Ironman Canada returns to its roots 

Spartan North American Championship

With US$62,000 in prize money up for grabs, the elite athletes competing at the Spartan North American will race over a 21 km course with 30 obstacles. Age group and elite competitors must finish in the top-10 at a Spartan race in the United States or Canada before Aug. 21, 2022 to qualify for the event.

The Kelowna Spartan race weekend will also include a Spartan Ultra (50 km with 60 obstacles), Spartan Super (10 km with 25 obstacles) and kids races.

“We are excited to finally bring the championships to Canada,” said Joe De Sena, founder and CEO of Spartan. “We’re putting together an epic course that will push our athletes to their limits. The terrain is no joke. But Spartans are used to a challenge — the question is, who wants it most?”

Lisa Bentley (right) and Lori Bowden during the run as part of Team Fraser’s relay team at the 2012 Subaru Ironman Canada. (Photo: David McColm)

Ironman Canada returns

The oldest long-course triathlon in North America, the Ironman Canada event was one of the first Ironman qualifying races. The first long-distance race took place in Penticton in 1983 as 26 athletes hit Lake Okanagan on August 20. A few years later it would become an official Ironman event and from there things took off. Renowned for its amazing community support, athletes clamoured to be part of the race, some even sleeping outside registration after they’d finished to ensure they’d get a spot for the following year’s race.

In 2013 Ironman Canada moved to Whistler, but, according to Ironman Canada race director, Susie Ernesting, the Ironman spirit never left the city.

“Local athletes and B.C. athletes never left Pencticton – every time I was there you saw athletes everywhere,” Ernsting says. “People still went to ride the Ironman course every year. Everyone has their own Ironman story from Penticton and the community has always taken a lot of ownership for the event because it was one of the original Ironman races.”

Registration opens for 2022 Ironman Canada

That enthusiasm was evident when it was announced that Ironman would be returning to Penticton in 2020 – the race filled up quickly as athletes clamoured to return to one of the sport’s favourite venues.

Then COVID hit and derailed things. The event couldn’t be held in 2020 and was postponed from its original August date in 2021 to later in September, but changing provincial rules meant the race couldn’t happen this year, either.

Which means that by the time the race takes place next year it will have been 10 years since Ironman hosted an event in Penticton.

Now it looks like it’ll be a busy week of endurance activity throughout the Okanagan Valley through the last weekend of August this year.