St. Jude IRONMAN Competition pushes for diversity in endurance competition

Ironman Competition pushes for diversity in endurance competition
Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 6:08 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Biking, running and swimming is the ultimate endurance competition.

The St. Jude IRONMAN Competition takes place Saturday at Shelby Farms.

Some of the best athletes in the world will be in Memphis this weekend, but organizers are working to diversify the participants in the big race.

Over 2,000 athletes will be participating in the Ironman Competition, but among these athletes will be 12 people of color, which will include Natalie Davis.

The Memphis native, who now lives in California, will participate in her first IRONMAN Competition.

Davis is an avid marathon runner who decided to do something new and accept a challenge to compete in an Ironman competition through an initiative in place since 2020 called “Race for Change.”

“I choose to be a part of the Ironman foundation race for change initiative because I do t see a lot of women. I don’t see a lot of women of color, and I don’t see a lot of women of my shape,” said Davis.

Saturday’s competition will include four relay teams made up of 12 Black athletes.

Each one will complete one leg of the race in a half-triathlon.

Davis will be completing the 13.1-mile run.

“I have never participated in any type of race where I have teammates waiting on me,” said Davis.

Then someone else will do the 1.2-mile swim.

Dereka Hendon, a long-time triathlon athlete from New York, will handle the 56-mile bike ride for her team.

“I have been involved in triathlons since 2014 when I started in a very short sprint, very new, very fresh, but I got hooked because it’s a challenge,” said Hendon.

Endurance competitions such as the IRONMAN competitions are multi-million-dollar sports, but people of color have shied away from the competition.

One reason may be cost.

“The average cyclist to get into cycling you’ll spend about $5,000, $2,000 to $3,000 for a bike, add shoes, helmet, jersey, pedals,” said Bill Gaston, President of the Major Taylor Cycling Alliance.

The group is named after the first African American World Champion cyclist.

It was 1899 when he won that title.

Today the Race for Change is still building on that foundation he set over a century ago by getting people of color involved in their races.

This is the third competition for Race for Change participants.

The program began in 2020 with an initial pledge of $1 million towards programming.

The IRONMAN Foundation will also donate $15,000 to charities in the Memphis area.

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