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Inaugural St. Jude Ironman 70.3 Memphis triathlon gets underway at Shelby Farms

Published: Oct. 2, 2021 at 2:18 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - It’s one of the most challenging and grueling competitions known to man.

After a year-long delay because of the pandemic (and after a short delay because of rain), the St. Jude Ironman 70.3 Memphis triathlon finally got underway at Shelby Farms on Saturday.

An Ironman 70.3 consists of a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike, and then 13.1-mile run.

For the 1,700 triathletes who come from across the U.S. and around the world, it’s a test of not only physical but mental endurance.

Some have competed before.

“In 2016, I completed the full Ironman course in Louisville, Kentucky,” said Chase Grubb.

This year, Grubb is excited to be competing in his native Tennessee.

As a St. Jude hero he also raised money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital while training for the competition.

He says St. Jude treated his niece last year after she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a serious blood disorder that occurs your body stops producing enough new blood cells.

“St. Jude saved her life,” Grubb said.

He and other triathletes say the challenges they face on the Ironman course are nothing compared to the challenges St. Jude patients face.

“When you’re suffering, when you’re out there on the course and you feel like quitting, don’t think about anything except for the children that we’re out here racing for,” said Tommy Martin, a participant from Little Rock, Arkansas.

In addition to St. Jude, the greater Memphis region stands to benefit.

The competition is forecast to have a $10 million dollar impact on the local economy.

Then, there’s international exposure for Shelby Farms, which organizers say was particularly attractive given its close proximity to the rest of the city.

“How many folks that aren’t from Memphis or aren’t from this part of the country know this is here?” asked Scott Sandlin, a participant. “Shelby Farms and all that you can do out here is just amazing.”

Erika Larsen, the race director for St. Jude Ironman 70.3 Memphis, said Ironman is committed to Memphis for the long-term, having signed a multi-year contract.

“We have a three-year contract to be here through 2023 at this point and we hope it to be so successful that we can be here for years on end,” said Larsen.

On Sunday, the Ironman Foundation is also hosting a bike clinic for kids and a community picnic at Douglas Community Center, 1616 Ash Street, in Memphis. It starts at noon. The event is free and everyone is invited.

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