BAY COUNTY—The 30th Annual Gulf Coast Triathlon is being held in Bay County this weekend as this ‘local race’ has since it began back in the early eighties.
The Gulf Coast Triathlon is, as the name suggests, a 3-part event consisting of a 1.2 mile open-water swim in the Gulf of Mexico, followed by a 56-mile bicycle ride along west Bay County, and concluded by a 13.1 mile half-marathon distance run primarily along Thomas Drive and through St. Andrews State Park.
Although many of the athletes are locals, others from all over the southeastern United States and beyond also come on Mother’s Day weekend every year to participate in this race. Organizers of the Gulf Coast Triathlon estimate that just over 1,000 athletes will participate in this year’s event.
Events surrounding the Gulf Coast Triathlon will be going on most all weekend but the race itself takes place on Saturday, May 12th, from the Boardwalk Beach Resort at 9400 South Thomas Drive.
The ‘physically challenged’ athletes kick off the official start of the event by entering the water at 6:15 a.m. All other athletes will follow in 5-minute intervals based on characteristics such as gender and age groups.
Over the last ten years, the Gulf Coast Triathlon has donated more than $300,000 to the local community. In its 30th year, the GCT continues to fulfill its ‘local charity’ obligations donating more than $25,000 to local community organizations after last year’s 29th annual event. As a not-for-profit foundation, the GCT aims to support youth organizations promoting sport, fitness and healthy lifestyles in the Bay County area.
This year’s GCT bicycle course will be the same as last year’s ‘new’ route. In previous years, a portion of the 56-mile bike course carried riders along 388 West from Highway 79 over to Highway 77 but due to the opening of the new airport a couple years ago along 388, the course no longer uses any portion of 388. The modified course will lead riders pedaling farther north along Highway 79 nearly to Ebro before tangents along Pine Log Road and Steelfield Road on their southbound return to Panama City Beach. The course has been approved by the Florida Department of Transportation to be the safest and most logical possible change to the course. Everyone is asked to exercise extreme caution on the roadways especially in the areas where athletes and course volunteers are present.