Nearly 300 bike, run, swim at event
HUNTINGTON -- Jim Duke smiled as he looked around at the crowd of sweaty, smiling folks hugging and catching their breath Sunday morning after crossing the finish line at the 11th annual St. Mary's Triathlon and Duathlon at Harris Riverfront Park.
They included kids, grandparents, and hundreds of men and women of ages in between. Seeing the glow of accomplishment on their faces is pretty gratifying, Duke said.
"We're all volunteers here," said Duke, race director and one of about 100 volunteers who made the event happen. "This is the only payment we get."
It's worth it to see nearly 300 people doing something to help them live well, he said.
The St. Mary's Triathlon includes a half-mile swim, 15-mile bike ride and a 5K run. The St. Mary's Duathlon is a 5K run, 15-mile bike ride and a 5K run. There is also a Triathlon Relay for those individuals who want to organize a team approach to the triathlon. And on Saturday, there was a Kid's Duathlon.
The nearly 300 people participating in this year's event is up from last year and a good turnout considering the sketchy weather lately, Duke said. It's the second time the event has taken place in downtown Huntington, having previously been at Beech Fork State Park in Lavalette.
The event was established 11 years ago by the organization HealthyHuntington.org -- now HealthyTriState.org. It was intended as a gateway to help local residents get into exercise by giving them a reason to establish fitness goals. With the many different options for participation -- from doing just one leg of a relay to doing the entire triathlon -- it gives people more reasons to say yes to competition. Relay teams can even include some members who compete in the entire triathlon with others who do just one leg.
"It's like a buffet -- I'll have some of this and some of that," joked Wendy Hooten of Milton, who did the running leg of a relay team. "There's something for everyone here.
"Especially in Huntington we get a bad reputation for being unhealthy," she said. "I think if someone saw this, they'd feel differently. It's not as bad as it looks. In fact, it's inspired me to do the whole thing."
She was happy about the overcast, mild weather on Sunday and loved the course. It was her second time participating in the triathlon relay, but her first time doing it downtown.
"I love the course being in the city -- it's great," she said.
"The atmosphere here is palpable," Hooten said. "Everyone here is so nice and they're cheering you on."
The triathlon was a mother-daughter event for Betsy Crockett of Charleston, who did the biking leg of a relay while her daughter, Annie, did the swimming and running. Crockett said she's recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, and cycling has been a great way to stay fit safely.
"It's been fun ... and it's a nice thing to say you've accomplished," she said, adding that she likes the challenge and having a reason to stay in shape.
Kevin Dickerson of Huntington did the duathlon and said he too enjoys it for the fun of the competition and the reason to stay in shape. The nurse anesthetist at St. Mary's said there was a good crowd from the hospital participating, and he was happy to be part of it. It's inspiring to see the competitors who are older, he said.
"If you notice, a lot of the people who finish first are older," he said.
On the younger side was Ross Adkins of Omaha, Neb., the 13-year-old grandson of Gayle Adkins of Huntington who was there cheering him on Sunday.
He and his family drove in Saturday night from Nebraska with his bike in the back of their vehicle so he could do his first triathlon. Having participated in some "Iron Kids" events back home, he's not new to the experience, but it was the longest triathlon race he'd done.
It was fun, he said.
"I like the competition and seeing how I can do," said Ross, who's on a swim team back home and enjoys swimming the most. "I like being active in general, and this is one of the sports I do."
The swimming portion of the race is in the Ohio River, and for Jeff Ashton of Proctorville, Ohio, that was his biggest concern before trying it for the first time last year.
"I was worried about the current when I first heard it was in the river, but the current was not much of an issue," he said.
Ashton said participating over the past two years has meant the return of something he did as a kid but had gotten away from. He likes the variety of training for a triathlon.
"Running all the time injures me," he said. "The variety keeps me injury-free. I stay fit, and once it's over, I'm glad I did it."
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