how to qualify for ironman kona

How To Qualify For Ironman Kona in 2021

Out of over a hundred thousand participants in all the ironman races organized worldwide, only close to 2000-2200 participants make it to the annual world championship at Kona each year. A small percentage of only a little over 2% of athletes qualify.

Participating in Ironman races around the globe is, by far, the most likely option for a majority of athletes worldwide. However, there is more than one option to qualify for the elite race.

In this blog post, we are going to find out how to qualify for Ironman Kona through all the different options available.

Let’s get started.

how to qualify for Ironman Kona

When Is Ironman Kona 2021 And 2022?

After the delay and disruption due to COVID-19, the annual event at Hawaii for 2021  scheduled for October 9 was canceled. The 2021 world championship which was scheduled to take place in October of 2021 will now take place on May 7, 2022, at St George, Utah. 

It is the first time that the event will be taking place outside of Hawaii. The world Championship for the year 2022 will take place in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii from Oct 6-8,2022. 

St George, Utah, also called the land of endurance, will be organizing the world championship for the first time ever. 

Ways To Qualify For Ironman Kona 

ironman qualifying times, do you have to qualify for an ironman

You either have to win the regional Ironman championships or sometimes, when more slots are given to a regional ironman championship race, try and secure a minimum position in order to qualify for the ironman world championship held in Kona each year.

The entry fee for the Kona Hawaii Ironman varies year after year. There is a general entry fee of close to $1025 which includes the 4.7120% Hawaii GE tax. Apart from this, there is an active processing fee and a $15 one-day fee for triathletes who don’t have the annual USAT membership.

Seeing that there are over 100000 attendees for the regional ironman races and only close to 2-2.2% of athletes run the world championship in Hawaii, it can be concluded that it is very hard to qualify for Ironman Kona.

Let us one by one discuss all the ways in which one can qualify for Ironman Kona.

Participating in Ironman Qualifying Races

There is obviously a slot for the winner of the qualifying race in the world championship race, separately for male and female competitors.

Certain age groups such as 35-39 and 40-44 years have more than one slot due to the greater number of participants.

The slot becomes available to the next triathlete if the winner chooses not to claim his slot.

Participating in a Half Ironman event

 A few half ironman races, especially in the Asian continent and the others, sometimes shortened from a full iron to a half iron, also provide direct slots for the world championship race.

The number of slots varies year from year, however, an average of 30 is available under this entry.

The Ironman Kona legacy program

With an aim to facilitate the loyal ironman triathletes, the legacy program every year fills close to 175-200 slots for the main event.

You must apply for the program beforehand and then wait for the intimation. Apart from this, a triathlete from the legacy program must meet the following criteria.

  • Should have participated in full iron in the past two consecutive years.
  • Should have completed a total of 12 full ironman races.
  • Should have registered for the current race.
  • Should never have run a world championship race before.

You can apply for the legacy program here.

Drawing For Ironman Foundation Kona

By simply donating to the ironman foundation, one can win a slot in the race. The donation is generally $50, made to the foundation.

The number of slots varies year after year, with the numbers varying between 5-10. The players still have to pay entry fees for the main race, apart from the donation.

You can check the website to know the details regarding this entry.

 Ironman Foundation Auction

The ironman foundation offers an opportunity to bid for 4 slots every year through an auction on eBay. The winners receive a VIP package. The auction supports the ironman foundation. The winners of the bid have the option to fundraise the amount or pay in full.

Women For TRI Representation

This is the fifth slot of the auction, dedicated to women triathletes, with an aim to encourage women in the sport.

The selected women will participate in the event and fundraise the bid amount.VIP package holds good for this entry too.

An inspirational story, which motivates and inspires other women to participate in the sport, is what is required to earn this slot in the first place.

Ironman Executive Challenge

This program is reserved for top-level executives, who compete against each other in half iron and full iron categories. They have to pay a hefty amount in order to get VIP privileges and reserve the slot in this exclusive category.

There is a membership fee for the executive challenge as well, apart from the slot fee.

So, a participant in the executive challenge pays an executive challenge membership fee, followed by a race fee which is much larger than the normal race fee but comes with VIP privileges.

The winner in this category is given a slot in the world championship race. Close to 25 slots are reserved for this entry.

Military Division Drawing

Active army athletes can qualify for the full as well as half iron through the military division drawing on the ironman site.

The regional ironman races have a few slots(10-15) reserved for the championship race under this entry.

Physically Challenged Drawing

Physically challenged athletes can qualify for the race under this category. 

You can check the ironman site for specific details.

Hawaii Residents Drawing

Open exclusively for residents of the island, the entry offers close to 20- 25 slots which give the residents an option to qualify for the race without having to participate in the qualifying races.

All you need is to make sure you complete all the formalities for registration and then wait for the intimation.

Wild Card

The wild card entry is given to an athletically deserving candidate like the winners of the Olympic games. The final decision is made by the ironman committee.

What Are The Ironman Age Groups

how to qualify for ironman kona,

The age groups for ironman are pretty diverse covering participants of all ages, both for men and women. There is an age limit for an ironman and only adults above the age of 18 are considered for participating in an Ironman.

Age group Age range (men and women)
XV90 plus

What Are The Ironman Qualifying Timings

All ironman races take place in different field conditions with varying atmospheric and terrain conditions. Therefore, the qualifying times for different locations are different.

The qualifying times are improving year after year, as the competition in the sport is increasing.

The average time for completing an ironman for men is 12 hours and 49 minutes while that for women is 13 hours and 35 minutes.

The peak timing is achieved for a triathlete in his 30s and therefore, a triathlete is able to finish a full ironman in close to 13 hours. However, in the 40s,  a triathlete would be able to complete the same race in over 14 hours.


Finally, Ironman is all about giving 90% of your time to preparations, whether for the qualifying race or the championship race itself.

An ironman requires a triathlete to dedicate at least two years of his life towards achieving his goal of competing in Kona.

So, go for the entry which suits you the most and achieve your dream.

Feel free to comment on which entry you think is the most suitable for you

Also Read:

How To Start Training For a Triathlon

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