Qualifying for Kona: Getting There is Half the Battle

Unlike any other world championship in all of sports, Ironman Hawaii allows age-group amateurs to race with professionals at the season's epic climax. Where else can you swim behind the eventual champion? Or watch her fly by after a bike turnaround, knowing you'll be covering that same course (eventually).

But getting to Kona isn't a come-as-you-are endurance buffet. Before you start writing a check for the $500 entry fee, know that there are two ways to punch your ticket: the easy way and the hard way.

The Easy Way
Athletes can try to gain entry through a lottery, a system that began in 1983. Online applications usually need to be received by the end of February of that year. Winners are notified several weeks later. Lottery applications for 2008 are now being accepted. Check Ironman.com for updates and entry-form specifics.

Note: Upon notification that an applicant has been chosen, they must show they've raced (and completed) a long-distance course (70.3 or greater).

For American athletes, 150 slots are open. Of those, 100 belong to members of the Passport Club, an organization offering Ironman-related discounts, a newsletter subscription and, of course, lottery preference--for $50 a year. The other slots go to non-members and those members not selected. There are an additional 50 lottery slots available to international entrants, with half of those going to Passport Club members. Physically challenged athletes can vie for five lottery slots. Registration for the Passport Club can be found here.

The Hard Way
Triathletes looking to race at Kona may qualify during Ironman races held throughout the world. These events include both full- and 70.3-distance Ironmans. First-place finishers in each age group are given automatic entry. Some races are also allotted additional slots to award a select number of finishers in some age groups who finish in a specific place or within a certain amount of time after the winner. Visit the individual race's website for more information.

Ironman World Championships qualifying races in 2008 (Note: some races are qualifiers for the following year's world championship):

*Denotes registration is now open.

Once you've made it there, winning your age group guarantees a return trip. Otherwise, you're back to square one (so enjoy the experience!). Different qualifying standards apply for professional triathletes.

For more information on participating in the Ironman World Championships, visit their Frequently Asked Questions page.

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