Kona Qualification FAQ

Some of the most commonly asked questions about the process and requirements of age group Kona qualification and the statistics I provide on this.

Select a question below to learn more.

  • How do you qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona?

    To qualify for the Ironman World Championship you will normally need to place highly in your age group at an Ironman race. Each race will carry a number of qualifying slots for age group athletes which will be allocated across the age groups present on race day. Qualifying slots will be offered to the fastest athletes in each age group following the race through a roll down process.

    For example, if you are M40-44 and there are 5 slots on offer for your age group at your race, then placing in the top 5 within your age group would ensure you a slot. Not everyone takes a slot and unclaimed slots are offered to subsequent finishers in finishing order. So, in the example, 6th place might claim a slot if third place doesn’t take one.

    While Ironman races are the primary method of qualification a handfull of 70.3 events also carry qualifying slots. These include the Hawaii 70.3 and a number of races in China.

  • How many slots are available at each Ironman race?

    The number of slots given to each race varies. Forty slots is the standard offering for the majority of races. There are a few exceptions, most notably regional championships carry 75 slots in the 2020 qualification season.

    Slot numbers are generally known well in advance and the table below shows the current allocation for the 2020 Kona season.

    wdt_ID Race Date Kona Slots
    1 Ironman Norway 30/11/-0001 30
    2 Ironman 70.3 Qujing 30
    3 Ironman Vichy 25/08/2019 40
    4 Ironman Wisconsin 08/09/2019 40
    5 Ironman Wales 15/09/2019 40
    6 Ironman 70.3 Xi'an 15/09/2019 30
    7 Ironman Italy 21/09/2019 40
    8 Ironman Gurye 22/09/2019 30
    9 Ironman Maryland 28/09/2019 40
    10 Ironman Chattanooga 29/09/2019 40
    Total: 360

    Each race will allocate those slots across their age divisions.

  • What age group do I qualify in?

    Qualification is based upon your age group at the qualifying race.

    As the qualification season overlaps calendar years it’s possible to qualify in one age group and then race Kona in another. You always qualify in your current division. If you are M35-39 at your qualifier you compete for M35-39 slots even if you would be M40-44 at the Ironman World Championship.

  • How many slots are available in my age group?

    Every age group present on the start line will receive 1 slot. After that, slots are allocated in proportion to the size of each age group. The method has varied over the years and not always been clear, but currently slots are allocated using the D’Hondt method as I’ve outlined here.

    The table below show slot allocations from the 2019 Kona season. Select a race to see how many slots were available in each age group.

  • How does the roll down process work?

    Kona slots are awarded by a roll down process. Starting with the winner of an age group and working back qualifying slots are offered until all the allocated slots have been claimed. If an athlete turns down a slot the opportunity will pass further down the age group.

    There is no restriction on how far back a slot can roll. There have been instances where a slot has carried back dozens of places within an age group as nobody was present to claim it.

    If an age group has no finishers or no finishers who claim a slot, that slot will pass to another age group within the same gender. This will be the next age group that would have been allocated a slot.

    As roll down is unpredictable I don’t factor it into the statistics and data I generate on this site. Slot allocations and times assume all slots are claimed.

  • How do I qualify at an Ironman 70.3 race?

    For those Ironman 70.3 races that have Kona slots the qualification process is essentially the same: slots are awarded through a roll down in finishing order within each division. However, athletes cannot accept slots for both the Ironman 70.3 World championship and for Kona. So, if an athlete accepts a 70.3 slot their Kona slot will roll down in their age group.

  • How fast do I need to be to claim a slot?

    How fast depends on a wide range of variables, including, but not limited to:

    • The race course. Ironman Austria is a course that always produces fast qualifying times, while Ironman UK will always be a significantly slower course to qualify on.
    • Race conditions. Ironman Frankfurt is usually a fast qualifier, but when there’s a heatwave qualifying times slow.
    • The competition. Ironman Frankfurt is known for drawing a competitive field. Ironman Argentina is more remote and doesn’t draw the same competitive strength.
    • The number of slots. Typically the biggest age group will have 5 or 6 slots, but a championship race might see some age groups receive 10 or more slots. Pushing further back in the field potentially means slower times and with more slots there’s more chance of roll down.

    Every race will give a different answer and even when the number of slots and levels of competition are quite consistent it’s possible for conditions to throw a curve ball. You can develop a feel for the likely times by looking at past results. The table below shows the final qualifying times for each race in the 2019 Kona season. Select and age group to see the slowest qualifying time for those races.

    There are a number of exceptions within those times – instances where courses were adjusted or shortened resulting in faster than usual qualifying times. On my Kona qualification page I look more deeply at the data, averaging times for qualifying places and presenting times from previous years to highlight outlying results. This helps give a clearer picture of the potential performance requirements of each event.

  • What’s the best race to qualify at?

    Aside from the many factors that determine how fast qualification is, there’s also the matter of an athlete’s strengths, weaknesses and preferences. If they’ve broadly achieved the level of fitness necessary to have a shot at qualifying there will be a number of suitable races.

    Some races may be better than others for qualification, it’s just that the differences are small.

    If you’re looking to determine your best options then downloading and reviewing your age group qualification statistics is a good starting point. Each booklet presents a summary of average qualifying times across all Ironman races and then more detailed statistics for each to give some indication of splits and results history. This can help establish which races are potential qualifiers based on times, then you’ll need to research further to determine is the course is suitable. Slow qualifying times don’t mean an easy qualifier.

    Of course every would-be qualifier is considering the same data as you. A race that looks like a great qualifier in 2019 has the potential to become more competitive in 2020.

    If you’re still not sure I do offer consultancy and bespoke results analysis for race selection. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

  • If I can’t qualify, how else can I race in Kona?

    There are a number of other ways to get to Kona outside of direct qualification. First and foremost is the Legacy program for athletes who have completed 12 Ironman races and never been to Kona. One hundred such athletes get places at the Ironman world Championship each year.

    A handful of slots are auctioned for charity on ebay; if you have sufficient funds you can gain a place on the start line. Or alternately, if you are an executive, you can pay to be part of the Ironman Executive Challenge where you compete against other executive for your own small set of Kona slots.

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