This weekend Panama City Beach, which hosts Ironman Florida every November, held the Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast event. Despite the COVID-pandemic around the world, the event enjoyed a turnout of 1,430 participants. While that’s considerably less than the 1,973 athletes who took part in the 2019 event (the 2020 race was held in conjunction with Ironman Florida and had 368 competitors), it’s not far below the 2017 and 2018 numbers the race had – 1,550 and 1,574 respectively.
While there weren’t any pros in the field, the men’s winning time of 3:51:09 by Californian Jan Stepinski was certainly pro-like – he was over 12-minutes faster than the next fastest athlete, Keith Jackson (the winner of the M25-29 category) and almost 17-minutes faster than the runner-up in his M30-34 age group. Stepinski is no stranger to finishing first-overall at Ironman events – he did that at the 2019 Ironman Santa Rosa race (8:51:27), the 2019 Ironman Arizona event (8:42:38) and the 2020 Ironman 70.3 Arizona race (4:01:03). Last year he took third in his age group at Ironman Cozumel and fifth overall.
“I mean my goal was to get out there and enjoy myself, you never really know what to expect,” Stepinski told mypanhandle.com after the race. “Of course I push myself as hard as I can, and again, coming off of injury, I didn’t want to overcook it on the run so, once I kind of scoped out the situation on the first lap I just paced myself and enjoyed it out there and brought it home.”
Chelsea Hollingsworth-Barnhill from Palm City, Fl., competing in her first half-distance race, took the women’s overall win 4:37:58. Hollingsworth-Barnhill won her W25-29 age group by almost 24 minutes, and finished just over three-minutes ahead of Shannon Florea, who won the W40-44 age group. Hollingsworth-Barnhill, a former track runner with East Carolina University, qualified for the 2020 US Olympic marathon trials thanks to a 2:41 marathon finish at the California International Marathon in 2019.
“You know, this is honestly just like a gift,” she told mypanhandle.com. “Just being able to come out here and swim and bike and run, I know there’s so many people that would love to be doing this, and it’s truly a gift.”