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The Tale Of The Halves | A Look At The Half Iron-Distance Races

A 70.3? A half-iron? a half-ironman? or a long distance race? No matter how you call it, the tremendous growth of that “magic” distance in our country still amazes us up to this day. Flashback 6 years ago, there’s only one legitimate half-iron distance in the Philippines. Now we have at least 8! So which one is the best? Which one should you pick and race for the 2015 season? Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of what we call, “the big 5” of half iron-distance races that we have today.

Note : we’re aware of the other half-iron races in the provinces like the Tabuelan 111, etc. But for now, we will focus on the big 5.


It’s no secret that the current big 5 half iron distance races in the country are the following.  In no particular order – Challenge Philippines (Subic), Challenge Camsur, Ironman 70.3 Philippines Subic, Ironman 70.3 Philippines Cebu, and Tri United 3. Except for Challenge Camsur and Ironman 70.3 Philippines Subic, both of which are set to debut next season, we had the benefit of covering all the half-iron distance races. Which we will continue to do so this season and beyond :)

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Since the WTC has trademarked the 70.3 name to its half-ironman race series, we often call the non-WTC ones as half-irons. It wasn’t a long time ago when the 70.3 was officially called the half-ironman. I guess they changed it for marketing reasons as some deemed the term “half” as derogatory. It’s a blessing in disguise though as we now have the cool 70.3 name and even the 5150 in our triathlon lingo.

So which among the 5 should you do? Here’s our unbiased take on each one and we’ll let you be the judge :).

Arranged in alphabetical order.

Note : All race images and its copyrights are owned by the respective races and its organizers. We DO NOT own any of the images.

Yellow Cab Challenge Camsur – the comeback kid.

Registration for this race is still open. REGISTER NOW.

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Dubbed as #WhereItAllBegan, everyone knows that the tremendous growth of triathlon in our country started in Camsur. We still remember the time when the first Ironman 70.3 was held there (we did the first three!) way back in 2009. Challenge Camsur will take the “veterans” back to #whereitallbegan and allow them to relive their glory moments. To the newer ones (those who started in Cebu), they will finally get the chance to experience the course where the first 600+ participants bled (literally) and raced for the first time.

Pros –

  • affordable accommodations
  • affordable food choices
  • accessible by car from Manila
  • fast bike course
  • scenic run course
  • awesome spectator support
  • nice race venue
  • wakeboarding!
  • lots of places to go to after the race
  • “Happy Ending Bar”. We’ll leave that one for you guys to find out :)

Cons –

  • lake swim (murky water)
  • water is heavy (not that buoyant)

Yellow Cab Challenge Philippines – the TOUGH one.

Registration for this race is still open. REGISTER NOW.

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Dubbed as one of the toughest races in the world, the Yellow Cab Challenge Philippines continues to live up to name by making its famed bike course just a “lil bit” tougher. The swim and run from last year’s edition is still pretty much the same. The race has been “rebooted” organization wise so we expect a better and more version this year.

Pros –

  • affordable accommodations
  • affordable food choices
  • accessible by car from Manila
  • unique (and very tough) bike course
  • scenic run course
  • ipods and other music gadgets allowed on the run
  • PIZZA!
  • cheap registration fee compared to other similar distance races.
  • longer cut off time

Cons –

  • not that much spectator support (based on last year)
  • quite bumpy bike course

Cobra IRONMAN 70.3 Philippines Cebu – the crown jewel.

Registration for this race is CLOSED. 

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The time it took for this race to sell out tells you everything you need to know about the race. The Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines is STILL the undisputed half-iron race of the country. As the 3x Race of the Year winner of the SBR.ph Awards, it’s no question why we dubbed this as our country’s triathlon crown jewel. We’ve covered all editions of this race, and we will continue to do so for years to come.

Pros – 

  • top notch organization
  • a world class event from start to finish
  • world class venue
  • crystal clear water
  • big name pro athletes
  • huge expo
  • spectator support
  • live updates and instant results
  • Jenson Button for the girls
  • Jessica Michibata for the boys
  • cebu lechon
  • cebu lechon
  • cebu lechon

Cons –

  • a not-so-exciting bike course
  • expensive hotel choices
  • bumpy bike course
  • quite tough to go around if you didn’t book via the event website
  • limited food choices inside the host hotel (if you’re not booked in Shangri-la)
  • Jenson and Jessica are now married :(

Century Tuna IRONMAN 70.3 Subic Bay Pilipinas – the second coming.

Registration for this race is still open. REGISTER NOW.

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The arrival of the 70.3 brand in the country’s tri capital came as a shock to everyone in the tri industry. But honestly? All we can say is, what took you this long? Big names such as Craig “Crowie” Alexander are already being touted to join the inaugural edition. Just the fact that you will race alongside the multiple Ironman Kona World Champion is enough reason for everyone to join this race. The race is set to debut this February so it would be unfair (and impossible) to give this race an honest rating. We’ll just post the obvious ones.

Pros –

  • affordable accommodations
  • affordable food choices
  • accessible by car from Manila
  • top notch organization (we expect nothing but the best)
  • SCTEX bike course
  • easy logistics

Cons – 

  • N/A

TRI UNITED 3 – the racer’s race.

Registration for this race is still open. REGISTER NOW.

We like to call Bike King organized races as “the racer’s race”. No frills, not that much fanfare, but just a well organized and hardcore racing experience all throughout. Athletes join Bike King races such as TU2 and TU3 for one thing and just one thing only… TO RACE. Tri United 3 will also forever be branded as the race which opened up SCTEX to the tri community. A dream bike course for any hardcore athlete.

Pros – 

  • affordable accommodations
  • affordable food choices
  • accessible by car from Manila
  • SCTEX bike course
  • excellent organization
  • nice expo area
  • unique “tri united” atmosphere

Cons – 

  • tough logistics for the participants as the start and finish line are set in different venues.
  • lack of spectator support after the swim part
  • not-so-scenic run course

THE VERDICT

So which one among the five is the best? We’ll leave that up to you, SBR.ph nation. Each race has its own unique features and must-race attributes. But like what they always say, no race is perfect. So for us, it’s best to experience it for yourselves. If you can join and do all five, please do so (just don’t get burned out!).

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A triathlete making a comeback and a true blue Scorpio. That sums it up quite nicely :)

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