Sam Long sets course record, wins consecutive Ironman 70.3 men’s championships

ST. GEORGE — The Beast was back in St. George Saturday morning.

American triathlete Sam Long set a new course record and defended his Ironman 70.3 North American Championship and he did it emphatically.

“Back to back titles sounds pretty good, I have to say,” Long said shortly after crossing the finish line.

Long’s winning time in the pro men’s division came in at three hours, 39 minutes and 17 seconds, setting the new standard on the St. George course.

“Just an awesome day out there, just so fun to come back to St. George every year,” Long told St. George News. “It feels like a second home and the crowds encouraged me to get that course record and go back-to-back.”

Two-time Ironman 70.3 North American Champion Sam Long swims in the race’s first leg, Sand Hollow Reservoir, Utah, May 4, 2024 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

Long’s time beat the previous course record set by Canadian Lionel Sanders’ mark of 3:41:13 set in 2018.

Long came out of the water at Sand Hollow about in the middle of the pack after the 1.2-mile swim under the rising sun.

He got to the front of the pack after the 56-mile bicycle ride out to Hurricane, back through Washington City and then to Snow Canyon.

Long recorded the fastest bike time in the field, 1:59:57, setting a new course record. The performance bested Sebastian Kienle’s bike time of 2:01:18 in 2018.

In other words, Long completed the 56-mile bike ride, featuring murderous climbs out of Sand Hollow and Snow Canyon, in less than two hours.

And then he executed his pre-race plan of throwing down a dominant run to seal the deal, and that’s exactly what he did on the 13.1-mile run that finished in downtown St. George.

“I got into the lead on the bike, then I expanded the lead on the run,” Long said. “Took me about half the bike I think to catch the front group. And then on the run kind of went into my own mode, my own Beastmode.”

Long became a fan-favorite in St. George long before he finally broke through with a victory in last May’s 2023 Ironman 70.3 North American Championship.

He’s been chasing his Ironman dreams in St. George in races going back to 2016.

“I love this course. I love the beauty here,” Long said. “Nowadays I never go into Snow Canyon before the race because I like to actually feel the magnificent energy up there on race day. It’s so beautiful that even though it’s so hard, it gives me a second wind.” 

L-R: Women’s pro champion Paula Findlay with men’s pro champion Sam Long at the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship, St. George, Utah, May 4, 2024 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

Now a two-time champ and a course record holder, Long doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

“Never gets old,” Long said. “I’ll keep coming here for as long as I have a career, hopefully another 15 years.”

Australian Ben Hamilton finished second behind Long, posting a time of 03:46:52.

Hamilton said in his post-race interview that his swim was “kind of average.”

“I backed myself on the bike, worked hard from the start,” Hamilton said, adding that he rode mostly with a group at the fifth through eighth positions.

“Then got onto the run, where I knew it had been going really well,” he said. “Just backed myself, picked them off one by one.”

Hamilton noticed the thin air in St. George, saying that he’d been in town since Monday and was able to acclimate in time.

“Super happy to pace myself around third and finish second,” Hamilton said.

The pro men’s division in the 2024 Ironman North American Championship lines up at the start of the swim, Sand Hollow Reservoir, Utah, May 4, 2024 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

Coming in third behind Hamilton and Long was Frenchman Antony Costes, who posted a time of 03:48:19.

That ended up being the closest finish of the day as Canadian Jackson Laundry finished in fourth behind Costes by just three seconds, 03:48:22.

Costes was at a loss for words to describe the running battle he waged with Laundry all the way to the finish line.

“It was game on,” Costes said. “I can’t remember anything to be honest. I just pushed and pushed. Oh, crazy.”

Rounding out the top five pro men’s finishers was South African Nicholas Quenet with his time of 03:48:49.

Click here to see complete results from the men’s race.

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