IRONMAN Memphis 70.3 will not be happening this year due to CoVID-19, which is fantastic because now I can jump in here and rip IRONMAN on the course planning.
I was pretty pumped to sign up for Memphis because I’ve never been there. I mean there’s Graceland and great BBQ…I probably would have eaten BBQ for three meals a day for all three days I planned on being there. That’s actually when I started to see the similarities in this race to IRONMAN New Orleans 70.3.
Has anyone raced that now defunct New Orleans 70.3? You’re in luck, I did back in 2016! First of all, like New Orleans, this race had abso-fuckin-lutely nothing to do with the city…NOLA was all based out of a lakefront airport that’s in the hood. I heard when this race started out they had the finish in the French Quarter, but that didn’t last very long and by the end we never even went that direction. The finisher medal had an image of a riverboat in front of the city skyline. There’s only one building anyone outside of Louisiana would recognize and that’s the SuperDome, and it ain’t in this skyline.
Memphis kind of follows the same trend as New Orleans with it all being localized at some place on the periphery of the city (Shelby Farms). It’s far enough east of the city that it’s actually in a town called Germantown. I looked at Google street view and Shelby Farms is literally farmland that they stuck some attractions on with a walking/running trail. Fun fact, the women’s county jail is just across the property line from the Shelby Farms Community Garden. The jail has 13 Google Reviews, most of which are one-star ratings. This screenshot was my favorite of the bunch.
Honestly this race course and transition feels a lot closer to being in BFE than it does to being in an urban area. By sticking the race way the fuck out past the city IRONMAN got to avoid most of the bad areas of Memphis, if you’d like to know the top 13 worst neighborhoods in Memphis here’s the link. Number 10 and 11 are to the south and north of Shelby Farms. Second fun fact: my aunt’s brother says all of the affluent white people don’t even live in Tennessee, they live in suburbs right across the border in Mississippi.
At least Memphis doesn’t have you ride the bike course through the backwoods and bayou’s like at NOLA. Although I can’t confirm what you’d actually see on the bike course I’d expect the occasional confederate flag hanging off someone’s front porch and a pick-up or two to match.
So let’s refocus on the point that the race has nothing to do with the city of Memphis. That’s not even the biggest offense committed here. Memphis sits right on the Mississippi River…and you mean to tell me IRONMAN couldn’t come up with a course with a down river swim? Well guess what? I did, and I made two just for argument’s sake.
Both of these courses run parallel to long shoreline parks. The second course I mapped out is actually feasible in terms of race logistics. You shuttle everyone from the host hotel to the swim start, which happens to be where the riverboat launch is. I’ve actually always wanted to go riverboat gambling, it sounds like an interesting experience.
Anyway, we’d swim down the river hugging the shoreline where we would exit near the First Church of the River (First Unitarian Church of Memphis). I would imagine a church would have more than an adequate amount of parking lot space to put up T1 (and this is a Saturday race so they won’t be having Sunday Service). Yes, in order to make a down river swim work it has to be a point-to-point race, but as long as they have a good race director (like how Jeremey Davis ran Beach2Battleship so seamlessly for several years…minus the first year) then it’s really not an issue. You’d leave T1 and head east out to BFE where Shelby Farms is — that can be T2 and still keep the run course. IRONMAN might have to hire off-duty cops to watch over transition overnight so no one steals some bikes as downtown is the worst crime ridden area in Memphis.
While the disconnect between the race and the host city is disappointing I guess I could drown my sorrows in delicious Memphis BBQ.