I've spent a lot of time this summer training to complete the Luray Sprint Triathlon. Swimming, biking, and running all wrapped up into one fun (yes, really!) event. So it was no wonder that my daughters decided they wanted to do a triathlon this summer too. And since I knew many of their friends would be interested as well, we decided to host our own kids triathlon event.
I'm happy to say that the event went off without a hitch this weekend. The kids had a blast and beamed with pride over their accomplishments. Even if you're not familiar with the triathlon scene, it's easy to plan a kids' triathlon. Here are some pointers to get you started:
Pick your course. The hardest part about picking out your swim, bike, and run courses will be making a course that's challenging but still doable for all of the kids at your event. You know your kids and what they can handle. Some will be better swimmers, some may excel at the bike, while others will blow away the competition on the run. Talk to your kids about what they think they can handle and then hit the streets or trails to plan.
Obviously, for the swim, you will need a source of water. If you've got a pool you're all set. If not, talk to friends and family or check with the local parks and recreation department about using a town pool or lake. Also, make sure plenty of seasoned adult swimmers and/or lifeguards will be on hand to keep the kids safe.
For the bike and run courses, you can do a lot of planning online using MapMyRun or MapMyBike. These free online tools help you map out several course routes from the comfort of your favorite chair. But just be sure you see the actual course in person as well. A route that looks good on the computer may be too steep or involve too much traffic for your event.
Allow for training time. Now that you've got your course set, make sure you allow plenty of time for your guests to "train" for your triathlon. Even if your kids and their friends are in relatively good shape, part of the fun of an event like this is the training they will put in to getting ready for it. At our event, the kids raced against themselves, because we didn't want to see any tears over kids who felt they weren't fast enough. We just wanted them all to take pride in giving it their all. So they didn't have to worry about beating their friends and they were more than willing to stop and help a buddy, or cheer for one another as they crossed the finish line.
Make it official. You don't need a lot of fancy equipment to get kids to swim, bike, and run. But if you want your triathlon to have a more official feel, pick up some race numbers for their running shirts and bikes. If you have a lot of kids, you might be able to get free run numbers from RoadID or ask the coach of your high school track team if they might have any to spare. I printed bike numbers from my computer and used mailing labels to make numbers the kids could adhere to their bicycle helmets. I used a black marker for "body marking" (writing the racer's number on his or her shoulder and calf) and the kids were all set.
Transition talk. If your kids have never seen a triathlon before, they may need help setting up their transition areas. This is the spot they will run to as they exit the water to dry off their feet, pop on their shoes, click on their helmets, and ride off on their bikes. It's also the spot where they will ditch their bikes as they return from the ride and head out on the run. The article has great advice for setting up a triathlon transition area.
Don't forget the swag. As any good triathlete will tell you, the best part about racing is always the swag, or T-shirts, medals, and post-race treats like cookies and trail-mix. For our event, we made tees using inexpensive white shirts that came in bulk and iron-on transfers. Depending upon how many kids attend your event, you might try picking up plain t-shirts from a thrift store in various colors, or even letting the kids make their own. For a few bucks, I even ordered kids' triathlon medals to give out to the finishers. It was very cool to see the kids wearing their medals with pride for hours after the event.
Bottom line: A kids' triathlon is a fun and interesting way to help kids of all ages and abilities get outdoors and get active. It's absolutely inspirational to watch kids give it their all as they race. And to see them beaming with pride after they finish.
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