‘Something bigger than themselves’: Ironman 70.3 World Championship volunteers rise to the challenge

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — As thousands of triathletes from across the Americas and many other countries descend upon St. George to compete for the chance of a lifetime, Greater Zion and Ironman challenge Southern Utahns to get involved by volunteering. 

Volunteers support athletes during the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship, St. George, Utah, May 1, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office, St. George News

The Ironman 70.3 World Championship, slated for Sept. 18, is without question the largest and most globally recognized event ever to visit St. George, volunteer coordinator Colby Nielson said. But a race of this scale wouldn’t be possible without the support of the local community. 

“People like to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Nielson said. “This is our shot to show the world our great community and our spirit.” 

Nielson has served as the volunteer coordinator for every St. George Ironman since 2009. Many people return year after year to help out, and he’s counting on their continued support along with enthusiastic new faces. Approximately 3,000 people are needed to bring everything together. 

Rally your family, friends, coworkers, church and community groups or come solo. Volunteers are needed not only on race day but throughout the entire week for events like the Ironkids Run and the Land of Endurance Fun Run. At Ironman Village in historic downtown St. George, volunteers will guide athletes through registration and packet pickup.   

Visit Ironman.GreaterZion.com to browse available volunteer opportunities. Sort by day or by duty, and sign up for multiple days if you’re able. There are numerous ways to get involved – from handing out water at aid stations along the course to greeting athletes at the finish line, not to mention course cleanup and gear transfer. 

Volunteers support athletes during the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship, Ivins, Utah, May 1, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office, St. George News

All volunteers serve under an experienced captain who manages their sector of the event. Captains also assume responsibility for recruiting as many volunteers as possible in the weeks leading up to the race.  

Once all of the athletes have crossed the finish line and the hard work is finished, Greater Zion and Ironman will host a banquet celebrating the dedication of this year’s volunteers. Ironman will return to the St. George area in May 2022 for the North American Championship, a full-distance race, as well as the 70.3 World Championship again in the fall. 

Along with enjoying the satisfaction of a job well done, many volunteers forge friendships that endure long after the race is over. Jan Howes, who captains multiple stations every year, said her fellow volunteers and captains have always made her feel welcomed and valued. 

“There’s nothing like volunteering for a world-renowned race like this,” she added. “The energy that you get from it, the camaraderie that you feel with people, it’s just a win-win situation all the way around.” 

Howes is hoping to recruit volunteers for registration, packet stuffing, athlete support in the bike-to-run transition zone and gear bag checkout, all of which she’ll help manage. Being part of Ironman is exciting and fun and exhausting, and she can’t wait to do it all again. 

Jamaica Hansen (second from left) leads the volunteer team at the finish line of the 2019 Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championship, St. George, Utah, May 4, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Jamaica Hansen, St. George News

Jamaica Hansen has volunteered at every local Ironman over the past 12 years and will reprise her role as captain of the finish line support team for the World Championship. Ironman is a tradition in Hansen’s family; she always takes her youngest kids to help with stuffing athlete packets ahead of the event and even participated in the 2019 race in a relay with her dad and daughter.  

Volunteers at the finish line are often the first people to hear about an athlete’s experience once their race is over. Hansen said witnessing the results of years of training and hearing their stories inspires her to get involved year after year. Athletes often express how grateful they are for the support and enthusiasm of the volunteers. 

“We get told all the time that St. George is like no other race,” she said. “We volunteer on a whole different level.” 

Claim your volunteer station today at Ironman.Greater Zion.com. If you have a large group of volunteers or are interested in serving as a captain, contact Nielson at [email protected].

Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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