When Amateur Ironmen Pay For The Elite Treatment

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  • Published Feb 26, 2016

A recent New York Times article looks at the amount of money some triathletes are willing to spend on fulfilling their multisport dreams.

When Marc Blumencranz had an opportunity to compete in the 2013 Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, he spared no expense in his preparations to go the distance.

His outlays for the race — known simply as “Kona” among triathletes — went far beyond a wet suit and a new pair of handlebars for his racing bike. To help acclimate to the Hawaiian heat, he rented a house on Kailua-Kona’s fashionable Ali’i Drive, as well as a block of hotel rooms for the 10 days leading up to the race. He also hired a private chef to prepare his meals, then flew to Hawaii and housed not only his wife and daughter, but also his coach, massage therapist and physical therapist.

Total estimated cost: $100,000.

Mr. Blumencranz, now 52, is a managing director for BWD, a large, privately held insurance brokerage and wealth-management firm in Plainview, N.Y. But his career success hardly makes him an anomaly in the sport. At events like Kona, it is not hard to find affluent competitors willing and able to put serious dollars behind their long-distance dreams.

A 2015 survey conducted for the World Triathlon Corporation — the Tampa, Fla.-based organizers of Kona and other Ironman races — found that the average annual household income for Ironman participants is $247,000. USA Triathlon, the largest multisport organization in the world, says the average income for all triathletes, including those at shorter distances, is $126,000.

“I don’t know if it’s a rich person’s sport, but it’s certainly an upscale person’s sport,” says Dr. Steven Jonas, a professor of public health at Stony Brook University, a longtime triathlete and the author of the best-selling book “Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals.” “To run a marathon, you need a pair of shoes, a pair of shorts and maybe a water bottle. To do a triathlon, you need a lot more.”

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