The Community YMCA of Eastern Delaware County held its first annual youth and family triathlon on Sunday May 20th. The “Tyke Triathlon” was held at the organization’s Ridley YMCA facility and was designed for children ages 3 – 6. Yes, you read that correctly. This event was designed for children THREE to SIX years of age.
I was honored to serve as this year’s Race Director and to be perfectly honest, this was one of the most rewarding and satisfying events I have ever been involved with. And that includes a personal racing career that spans decades and countless other events that I have been involved with on the production and volunteer sides.
Before anyone takes issue with the idea of involving such young children in a competitive multisport event, I need to explain a little about the purpose of this “race”. For starters, this event was not timed. So there was no concept of anyone “beating” anyone else or whose time was good, better, best, first or last.
Additionally, it was a mandatory requirement that each child be partnered with a parent for the entire duration of the race. The race format included a one width “swim” (using any flotation device and parental assistance necessary) of the pool. Following the swim was a lap of the closed parking lot area on their bikes and finishing up with a single loop run around the grass field behind the Y.
The goals were simple. We wanted to promote family togetherness and involvement. We wanted to promote the community aspect of the event. And we wanted the kids and parents alike to feel the exhilaration of participation and accomplishment in a safe, accepting, and “everyone wins” atmosphere. We also wanted to open their eyes to what this sport can do for the character and confidence of athletes of all ages. Most importantly, we wanted everyone to have fun.
The design of the course was perfect because you could easily see everything that was happening along the bike and run portion simply by walking a few feet in either direction. So after doing some race start logistics and organization, I took in the energy and excitement of the cyclists and runners before manning my spot at the finish line so I could personally place the medals around the necks of every finisher. In a word – emotional.
The expressions on the faces of the kids and parents as they crossed the finish line together were priceless. I will repeat what I said earlier, this was one of the most rewarding and satisfying events I have ever been involved with.
I wish I had been able to record a number of the comments that I overheard as people crossed the finish line. I do recall a few of the more meaningful quotes. One dad summed it up best as he held hands with his son and simply yelled “This is AWESOME”!!! I overhead another parent to say “this was like his own personal ironman”. And perhaps my favorite came towards the very end when a woman approached me and thanked me for helping out but then said “My daughter wants to know if she can come back and do this again TOMORROW”!
I think we made a very positive impact on many fronts today and I am looking forward to this being the beginning of something much bigger – than all of us.
And as I think about it, I would love to go back tomorrow and do it again as well.
Train safe, race smart, and thank the volunteers.