IRONMAN triathlon went ahead last weekend in Campeche

“We recognize that this is a challenging time but our community will endure” 

The 70.3 IRONMAN triathlon went ahead last weekend in Campeche despite Coronavirus health concerns, widespread flight cancellations and global border closures.

The third anniversary of the event in Campeche took place on Sunday the 15th of March and drew a large international crowd. A registered 823 athletes flocked to the city of Campeche from all over the world including Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, and a significant number from the USA. The influx of tourists is not unusual for Campeche at this time of year; however, the streets have shown a marked decrease in foot traffic in recent weeks.

The three parts of the triathlon include a 1.9km swim followed by a 90km cycle and finally a 21.1km run to the finish. With highs of 34 Celsius, the IRONMAN truly earned its reputation over the weekend. It goes without saying that an event as strenuous as this requires iron will and determination from its participants; but in the middle of a global pandemic, could the fact that this event was even staged be considered reckless?

Photo by George Chowdhury

Speaking to Latin Americans, North Americans and Europeans during the event, it became clear that they were still confident in their decision to participate. As is necessary for a triathlon, the athletes had undergone a lot of preparation, many for over a year.

One woman, Lynette Dunsworth from Minnesota, surmised the feelings succinctly: “we’ve trained forever for this”. It was clear that the participants and fans were almost fanatical about the event and weren’t going to be perturbed by potential difficulties getting home. A trio from British Columbia were “not concerned” about getting back over the border, the same was true for many of the Europeans at the event. The update section of the IRONMAN webpage advises participants not to travel for 24 hours – until their immune systems have recovered from the strain of the weekend.

The IRONMAN website has a wealth of information for athletes and travellers during the current pandemic. For athletes: No handshaking, don’t mill about in large numbers and only eat food from closed packages. Volunteers and aid personnel must wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and this was in force during the day with most workers seen with some form of protection.

Photo by George Chowdhury

In keeping with the guidelines, support workers were clad in gloves and masks and officials were distributing hand sanitizer about the course as a precaution. But unfortunately, it was evident that some were taking a lax approach to these preventative measures: a team of a dozen masseuses, a role requiring close bodily contact, were observed to only don protective masks halfway through the event and an aid was seen eating food from latex covered hands – phenomena indicating that the full gravity of the ongoing crisis hadn’t yet set in.  

Elsewhere, the IRONMAN association has already cancelled several planned events due to COVID-19, including one in Puerto Rico. The few recorded cases in Mexico and the government’s slow implementation of containment measures appears to be the reason the event went ahead, and it is predicted by epidemiologists that the inevitable outbreak of Coronavirus in Mexico will take place later than most other affected countries, between the 20th and 30th of March is slated to be peak infection rate.

Photo by George Chowdhury

A worry among locals was that the presence of people from nations with multiple recorded cases may be inadvertently propagating the virus and putting others at risk. As of the week commencing the 16th of March, the response by the Mexican authorities has been negligible at best, with music festivals and campaign rallies continuing to take place across the country. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador continues to attend rallies, hugging and kissing fans with statements such as: “The misfortunes, the pandemics…are not going to do anything to us”. 

“We recognize that this is a challenging time but our community will endure” states the updates page on the Ironman website. It is conflicting whether to be in awe of the athletes willing to overcome all difficulties and perils to achieve their goals, or to condemn them for potentially recklessly proliferating a global pandemic, which on the 15th claimed 368 lives in Italy alone.

For The Yucatan Times
George Chowdhury

George Chowdhury is a freelance writer currently based in Latin America. With a scientific background he writes quantitative, informative pieces that seek to democratise issues ranging from culture to climate change.



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