Ironman offers premier event for local athletes right in their own backyard

About 700 people from across the Commonwealth are set to compete

ROANOKE, Va. – People from all over the country have come to Roanoke to compete in the inaugural Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Amid those visitors will be hundreds of locals from across the region and the state, excited to participate on their home turf.

Botetourt County Fire-EMS Supervisor Darren Rock is always preparing for a challenge, and he’s set to face possibly his toughest yet.

“This weekend’s been coming for years, I know it’s at least over a year because I really never stopped thinking about it,” Rock said.

Training for his first triathlon has been like a part-time job. He’s no stranger to races, but he said they’re a strain on more than just his muscles.

“You always had to travel and you had to go to North Carolina or West Virginia and just make a weekend out of it, and unfortunately, a lot of times with my schedule I just can’t do that,” Rock said.

Rock is one of the more than 200 people from Roanoke and 700 from Virginia competing in the IRONMAN 70.3. Presenting sponsor Carilion Clinic’s Mike Dame said it’s a world-class event right in their backyard.

“There’s nothing better than being able to wake up in your own bed, get up, make your way out at 5 a.m. to Carvins Cove, but then at the end of the day to be able to celebrate here with your family and friends,” Dame said.

Carilion Clinic staff account for 150 of them, and there’s another 350 volunteering for the effort. Dame said events like the Blue Ridge Marathon set the stage for the IRONMAN and locals are clearly excited to welcome other racers to their home.

“We are thrilled, it’s probably more than we ever expected, but the excitement level since we announced this two years ago has been just through the roof,” Dame said.

Back at the fire station, Rock has half a shift to finish, and then it’s just a few hours until it all starts.

“It’s finally here and just seeing all the trucks and all the commotion around it, it’s kind of almost surreal,” Rock said.

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