The athletes agree - Taupō is the best place in the world to do an Ironman event.
The Nutri-Grain Ironman New Zealand, held for the 22nd year in Taupō, has this week taken out first place in the Overall Satisfaction category of the 2019 Ironman Athletes' Choice Awards. The category encompasses swim, bike and run courses as well as host cities and post-race celebrations.
"This best-loved race showcases New Zealand's breathtaking scenery, including one of the world's biggest lakes. The people of Taupo have made the event their own, with over 2000 volunteers putting their hand up to help make competitors from all corners of the globe feel at home," the citation says.
Taupō was also fifth in the Overall Satisfaction category for the Ironman 70.3 event, and top-scored in Overall Host City Experience and Overall Venue Experience.
Over 2500 athletes have entered Saturday's event, and 1000 of those are participating in Ironman 70.3, which runs alongside the full Ironman race.
Taupō district events manager Steve Giles says on average each competitor brings two supporters and New Zealand athletes stay four to five days, with international athletes staying up to eight days. The value to the Taupō District is a direct spend of $5.5 million. This year's spend is expected to be even higher with more Ironman 70.3 athletes entering to secure one of 82 qualifying spots for the November Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Taupō on November 28 and 29.
Last year Christchurch athlete Mike Phillips won the men's race, enjoying huge support from spectators as he overcame a massive 17-minute deficit off the bike leg to eventually run down second placegetter Andrew Starykowicz from the US.
Phillips is back, along with fellow Kiwis Braden Currie and Dougal Allan and long-time 'King of Taupō', Cameron Brown of Auckland, who has won Ironman in Taupō 12 times.
In the women's race, last year's winner Jocelyn McCauley from the US is back along with runner-up Teresa Adam from Auckland and five-time Ironman New Zealand winner Meredith Kessler from the US.
Keeping the event rolling are volunteers helping out with race packs and registration to marshalling and medical.
Ironman has also captured the imagination of locals who come out in force to cheer the competitors along. Ironmen often speak of how much the encouragement helps buoy them along, particularly during the unforgiving 42km run leg when bodies begin to tire and spirits droop.
Event manager Steve Giles says Ironman attracts the most international media, exposure and coverage out of all the events held annually in the Taupō District and this year for the first time it will be livestreamed on Facebook Watch.
Mr Giles says the huge support that Taupō puts on for the Ironman event every year was a deciding factor in Taupō 's successful bid to host the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in November 2020. The championships are expected to attract 6200 competitors and it will be the largest event Taupō has ever hosted.