SPORTING LIFE: Tuscaloosa Kids Triathlon will raise money for charity

SPORTING LIFE: Tuscaloosa Kids Triathlon will raise money for charity

On Saturday, some 100 youth, plus their families and friends, will gather at Lake Lurleen State Park in Coker. They’ll all be there for the seventh annual Tuscaloosa Kids Triathlon.

“One of the things I’m proud of about this event is that it’s now the longest-running triathlon ever in Tuscaloosa, for kids or adults,” said the event’s founder and meet director David Williams. “Birmingham had one briefly, but it didn’t even come close to lasting five years. So I’m very proud that we have the staying power to continue to be around. We have no plans to go anywhere.”

Participants may register as late as Friday. The triathlon begins Saturday at 9 a.m. The cost to participate is $45. There is an additional $10 fee required for a one-day membership in USA Triathlon. The race is sanctioned by USA Triathlon. If a participant is already a USAT member, that license fee is waved.

The triathlon is an event near and dear to Williams’ heart. His kids, Bode and Ever, came up with the idea of being able to compete in a triathlon that was kid-friendly and close to home. But this event is also special to Williams for a couple of other reasons.

“I believe in the sport and I believe in the cause, the charity that everything goes to, Secret Meals for Hungry Children,” said Williams. “It seems like it’s so much easier to run now because every year, (main sponsor) Alabama Credit Union seems to take on more and more of the organization and I just seem to show up on race day to make sure it runs smoothly.”

The first six races have raised, Williams said, more than $75,000 for Secret Meals for Hungry Children.

One of the reasons Williams said he believes in the event, and the sport, is that it is promoting healthy lifestyles for kids. It gets them outside and away from video games. His two children are among three who will have competed in all seven Tuscaloosa Kids Triathlons.

“My son, Bode, competed in the first one when he was 9. Now he’ll be driving to it,” Williams said, laughing.

The triathlon consists of three events: Swimming, biking and running. This triathlon is divided into age groups with distances for each event differing per age group. The youngest division is ages 5-7. They’ll swim 25 yards, bike one mile and run a quarter mile. Ages 8-10 swim 50 yards, bike two miles and run a half mile. Ages 11-13 swim 100 yards, bike four miles and run ¾ of a mile. Ages 14-16 swim 150 yards, bike six miles and run ¾ of a mile.

Williams said if a parent or kid is on the fence about deciding whether or not the triathlon is for them, he encourages them just to come as a spectator and observe how it works.

“I tell them just to come the first year and watch it, just come and check it out. Their kids will want to do it. I really believe that. It’s beginner friendly. The water (for the swim portion in Lake Lurleen) is never above their head. It’s very shallow water. The bike race is on nice, paved roads throughout the park. Some people think they’re going off-road — they’re not. And the run is really short for most triathlons. It’s all very beginner friendly race course.”

While there is normally an admission charged to enter and enjoy Lake Lurleen State Park, participants, their families and friends will be able to enter the park for free that morning.

“One of the biggest things that’s new is that Mercedes is our T-shirt sponsor,” Williams said. “We always have new vendors. We have a lot of activities at the finish line. Bama Bounders comes and helps. We have some people who come in and help with things like building sand castles for little brothers and sisters who aren’t racing. We have a ton of snow cones and food trucks that we didn’t have the first year or two.”

By Becky Hopf / Special to The Tuscaloosa News