Thousands of athletes ran, swam and biked across Madison Sunday, competing in the seventh annual Ford Ironman Wisconsin competition.
The top finisher was Australian Chris McDonald, who set a new course record by finishing the feat in 8 hours, 43 minutes and 29 seconds.
Hillary Biscay of Tucson, Ariz. won the women’s title, finishing in 9 hours, 47 minutes and 25 seconds.
Wisconsin’s own Lauren Jensen, who lives in New Berlin, placed fifth in the woman’s competition finishing in 10 hours, 7 minutes and 39 seconds.
Madison hosts one of only five Ironman competitions held across the country every year and drew about 2,200 participants this year.
The 140.6-mile Ironman competition is broken into a consecutive 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a full marathon, 26.2 miles.
Alan “Pointer” Robertson, who volunteered with his wife Cathy for the sixth year in a row, said his daughter asked him to attend his first Ironman and was so inspired by the athletes that he has volunteered ever since.
“Although I can’t compete in one, I can help out,” Robertson said as he directed pedestrians across the street and shouted words of encouragement to the athletes. “These are just everyday people, but what they do is incredible.”
The event requires 3,500 staff members and upwards of 50,000 supporters from all over the world, according to Ironman spokesperson Helen Manning.
Manning said Madison is a great location for the event, but weather can be a problem.
“We’ve had some weather problems,” Manning said. “A few years ago we had intense heat, and two years ago … it was quite cold and rainy.”
The Madison Police Department said the Ironman route required large-scale planning to redirect traffic, as well as an extensive police force to manage the event.
“Although the race fouls up traffic, most people are pretty understanding,” police officer Scott Favour said. “The media does a pretty good job of letting people know that the race will be going on and what to expect.”
The local economy also benefits from the thousands flocking to Madison to watch, volunteer or participate in the Ironman event.
On the day of the event, spectators lined State Street and Capitol Square holding signs, cameras and even custom-made T-shirts in support of the athletes.
Managers of several local businesses, including Noodles and Company on State Street, said the days surrounding the event are some of the busiest days of the year.
Manning said the competition has grown to be popular for spectators throughout the years, especially at the finish line.
“They are great,” Manning said. “We really enjoy a lot of strong spectators here at the finish area and in Verona.”