Categorized | Multi-sport, Sports

Ultraman World Championships underway early Friday


On Friday, Nov. 26, 37 ultra-athletes will once again plunge into the waters of Kailua Bay to begin what is considered to be one of the world’s most demanding individual multi-sport events – the three days of the Ultraman World Championships.

This 6.2 mile swim to Keauhou Bay marks the start of the 26th annual Ultraman to be held on the Island of Hawaii. Day One of the event is completed on Friday by 90 miles of cycling to Volcanoes National Park.

Each athlete is accompanied by a support crew in a well-marked vehicle. These support teams provide the vital aid each athlete will require to complete each day’s course within the cutoff time of twelve hours.

The second day begins at dawn Saturday, Nov. 27, at Volcanoes National Park. The participants will then cycle 171.4 miles to Hawi, via Kalapana, Kapoho, Pahoa, Hilo, the Hamakua Coast and Waimea, finishing at the Kohala Village Inn at the north end of the island, after the climb up and over the Kohala Mountains.

After a night’s rest, they will lace up their running shoes in Hawi and complete the Stage III double marathon of 52.4 miles on Sunday, Nov. 28, at Kailua-Kona’s Old Airport State Park.

Arrival time for the first runner could be as early as noon.

This year, the 27 Ultraman World Championship participants come from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Slovenia, and the USA. Ten states are represented, including four athletes from the Big Island.

The Big Island participants include three Kona residents, Cory Foulk, who will be participating in his eighteenth Ultraman, Physically Challenged Jason Lester, taking part in his fifth Ultraman, as well as Kona lifeguard, Laurie Beers, doing her second Ultraman, and 65 year old UltraRookie, Wendy Minor of North Kohala, who are two of the eleven women participants.

The women’s field also includes the winner of the ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete with a Disability, Amy Palmiero-Winters, who will be the first athlete with a below-the-knee prosthesis to attempt the Ultraman course.

Twenty-nine of the athletes have completed at least one previous Ultraman, either in Hawaii or Canada, however, it will be the first time for eight of the athletes to experience the beauty and the challenge of circumnavigating the Island of Hawaii.

Previous participants have called this event the most difficult they have ever entered, yet feel that it is the athletic highlight of their lives. Lasting friendships develop between the athletes and crews, many of whom are volunteers from the Kona community, or are Ultraman athletes from years past.

All who complete the course within the 12 hour cut-off times each day are recognized as winners, and the trophies are the same for the first and last person to cross the finish lines.


WHAT: A 3-day, 320-mile (515-kilometer) individual ultra-endurance event which takes place on the Big Island of Hawaii. Entry is limited to 40 participants and is by invitation only. Founded in 1983, the event is held annually on the traditional Thanksgiving weekend.

WHEN: FRIDAY, Nov. 26 — Stage I —Starting time 6:30 a.m.: SATURDAY, Nov. 27  — Stage II — Starting time 6:30 a.m.; SUNDAY, Nov. 28 — Stage III — Starting time 6 a.m.

WHERE: Stage I – 6.2-mile (10 km) ocean swim from Kailua Bay to Keauhou Bay, followed by a 90-mile (145 km) cross-country bike ride from Keauhou Bay around the southern tip of the island via Route 11 to finish at Namakani Paio Park in the Volcanoes National Park. Vertical climbs total 7,600 feet.

Stage II – 171.4-mi (276 km) bike ride, from Volcanoes National Park (Route 11) to Keaau, then turning east with a counter-clockwise loop through Kalapana, Kapoho and Pahoa, then on through the City of Hilo. From Hilo, the route continues north along the Hamakua Coast (Route 19) to Waimea, and over the Kohala Mountains via Route 250 to finish at the Kohala Village Inn on Hawi Road, just above its junction with Route 270. Vertical climbs total 8,600 feet.

Stage III – 52.4-mile (84 km) double-marathon run from Hawi to Kawaihae (Route 270), then on to Kailua-Kona (via Route 19) and finishing on the beach at the Old Airport State Park.
Time Limits: Each stage must be completed in 12 hours or less. The swim should be completed in 5-1/2 hours or less. Participants not reaching the respective finish lines within the 12 hour limits will be disqualified.

WHO: Limited to 40 athletes, participants are expected from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Puerto Rico, Slovenia, Sweden, and the United States, with four participants from the Island of Hawaii. Over 80 percent of the field will have participated in at least one previous Ultraman. 

Each athlete must be accompanied by an individual support team of at least two persons over the entire course. Many of these team members volunteer from the Big Island community each year. The event attracts individuals who not only thrive on personal challenge and enjoy the thrill of victory, but who come to understand, as did the ancient Hawaiians, the importance of aloha (love), ohana (family), and kokua (help). Individual resources, mental, physical, and spiritual, are shared in an atmosphere where everyone who completes the course is a winner, and the pursuit of human excellence is the fundamental rule of the road.


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