That effect has been noted across the region. “This event has been a huge catalyst for the popularity of multisport events,” said Peter Munn, a member of the Pembrokeshire cycling club, based in Haverfordwest, the area’s largest town. His group has doubled in size in recent years, to 175 members: The youngest is 8 and the oldest 77.
Tenby, meanwhile, has become a different sort of place. It holds another multisport event during the year, as well as several smaller competitions. Iron Kids, a juniors event that runs on Ironman weekend, welcomed 1,000 entrants last year. That total doubled this year, such was the demand. Davies said the council had noted an increase in the number of people using its leisure facilities in recent years, and he said there had been a concomitant decrease in demands placed on its health services.
The impact, though, may be broader still. In Swansea, Sansum said, there are “four or five” triathlon clubs within a few miles’ drive. In the Valleys, meanwhile, Wales’s industrial heartland, the sport — and Ironman in particular — is booming.
“You hear stories of five lads from the same village of just a few houses who are here to do it,” said Ben Jones, who had come with Neil Williams from Rhondda to compete.
Williams added: “There is a real fascination with it. It is a challenge. A chance to see what you’re made of.”
Watching a Ticking Clock
Success can come at a price. Ironman organizers say they are committed to staying in Tenby until 2021, at which point the group’s contract expires. There are rumors Ironman may look to take the event to a larger market: There are dark whispers among locals that they may move the race to Cardiff, the capital.
Davies, at the town council, insisted he was hopeful the race would remain here, its continued place on the calendar secured by the positive reviews from the athletes and the clear passion of the crowds. “We think we had 25,000 on the streets of Tenby during the day itself, and record numbers at all of the major towns along the way,” he said.