Downtown Wilmington and surrounding counties will swarm with participants in two races Saturday.
The eighth annual PPD Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon involves nearly 2,300 athletes this year, according to the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). A companion race, the New Hanover Regional Medical Center 5K, projects the participation of about 300 runners, who will follow a route within Wilmington.
Both the Beach2Battleship full triathlon and half-triathlon events are sold out, according to a news release from the CVB, which quoted race organizers. The CVB also estimated that about 8,000 additional people – athletes’ family members, friends and trainers, as well as area residents – will be watching the events.
They will also be staying in area hotels, eating in area restaurants and shopping in area stores, officials said. The event’s New Hanover County lodging partners this year, according to the CVB, include downtown host hotel the Hilton Wilmington Riverside and beach host hotel the Blockade Runner Resort. Other partner properties are the Fairfield Inn & Suites, Hampton Inn & Suites Landfall Park, Hampton Inn University Area/Smith Creek Station, Residence Inn by Marriott Landfall, Hampton Inn Medical Park, Springhill Suites Wilmington Mayfaire, Holiday Inn Wilmington and Silver Gull oceanfront motel. Bryant Real Estate is also involved in helping provide rental lodging.
“Set Up Events, producer of the PPD Beach2Battleship Triathlon, reports that approximately 95 percent of the participants travel from outside the local area. This year’s athletes are from 44 states and seven countries, with an average stay of three nights,” the release stated.
“High-profile sporting events like PPD Beach2Battleship provide a welcome economic boost for Wilmington and the island beaches, especially during the shoulder season,” the release continued, adding that event organizers have said in previous years the total economic impact of the Beach2Battleship is about $4 million.
A major mission of the PPD Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon is to raise awareness of the importance of clinical trials, PPD spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuronen has said. This year, one of the event’s participant “heroes” is Teresa Dunlap, one of the company’s clinical researchers, who was diagnosed several years ago with a rare form of breast cancer.
“She will achieve the key milestone of being cancer-free for three years – clear of the prospect of a recurrence – on her birthday as she runs 13.1 miles in the triathlon to celebrate her return to health (including losing 60 pounds),” a news release from PPD stated. “Her personal fight with a life-threatening illness has deeply influenced her work to help save others’ lives.”
Over the years, the event’s route has undergone adjustments. This year it was changed again to highlight a new development in Wilmington’s north riverfront area.
The triathlon’s finish line has been moved to the new Port City Marina on Wilmington’s north riverfront area, “in the shadow of the PPD building,” Dick Jones, CEO of Wilmington Family YMCA, said earlier this week. The NHRMC 5K route also finishes at the new marina pier.
Net proceeds from the race benefit the YMCA, as they have in previous years. Jones said funds support the organization’s free community programs such as LiveStrong, and also enable the YMCA to provide financial assistance to people who otherwise could not afford YMCA programs.