Within three minutes on Wednesday, Ironman Chattanooga sold out.
"They are the 800-pound gorilla in ultra triathlons, and I immediately identified them as an opportunity," said Tim Morgan, president of the Chattanooga Sports Committee.
The race itself is considered the pinnacle of athletic performance, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim down the Tennessee River, 110-mile bike ride along the foot of Lookout Mountain and 26.2-mile marathon through the streets of downtown.
"To be able to have one here in our backyard and to show off Chattanooga is really going to be great," said John O'Brien.
O'Brien has 13 Ironmans under his belt. Next year's will be his 14th.
"Competition—I love to compete in everything I do," O'Brien said.
The 53-year-old is racing in the World Half Ironman Championships in Las Vegas this weekend but said you can't beat competing in your hometown.
"[To] be able to see so many people we know on the course through volunteers, on the bike, on the run course, you get a lot more support," O'Brien said.
Bob Doak, CEO of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he was excited that the competition is coming to the city.
"That is our mission, to bring people who don't live here to spend money, and then they go home," he said.
The typical Ironman athlete tends to have disposable income and travels well.
"They bring their family here with them, and they stay somewhere between three and five nights, so it's a tremendous economic impact," Doak said.
Only 30 venues hold a full Ironman each year. Over the next five years, Chattanooga will pull in roughly $40 million by playing host.
"I don't think you can have a more centralized, concentrated location than Chattanooga," Morgan said.
A big payout for the city will have an even bigger reward for the competitors.
"It's a great experience—those last miles, in particular—crossing the line with the fact that you've been able to accomplish that goal," O'Brien said.
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