Swimmers head out on the first leg of their race during a previous year's Riding Mountain Triathlon. This year's race starts 9 a.m. Saturday.
One of the Prairies’ most popular triathlon events continues to grow.
Heading in its 27th race on Saturday, the Riding Mountain Triathlon will feature its most-ever participants, and co-race director Ellis Crowston is still receiving phone calls from people wanting to enter the competition, even though the deadline was on Sunday.
At 545 racers, Crowston said the Riding Mountain event, which starts at 9 a.m. at Wasagaming, is the biggest triathlon held between Calgary and Toronto, and he thinks it’s because of the experience organizers give each racer.
"We built the event and tried to give it the feel and look of a large, professionally run event that you’d see in Southern Ontario, down in California or B.C., but still have that family feel and be accessible to the everyday person wanting to do a triathlon," said Crowston, who took over the event in 2007. "… When the average person comes in to race, they have a feel of a professional event, and that was always our goal and vision."
When the Crowston family took over the event, it was mainly targeting Westman and Winnipeg competitors and drew between 200 and 220 people. Now it’s geared for everyone ranging from serious competitors to people interested in trying a triathlon for the first time, which is why there are three different race lengths. There’s also a triathlon for kids between six and 15 years of age on Sunday.
Those changes are some of the reasons why the triathlon is drawing competitors from seven different provinces and four states this year. That also gives more people a chance to experience Riding Mountain National Park, which Crowston refers to as a "jewel of the province."
This year’s registration, which is up almost 100 racers, has brought a smile to Crowston’s face, as he feels all the work by family has paid off.
"It’s thrilling," he said. "To get a triathlon over 500, virtually all of them will be put on by professional management companies that do large series and they’re in traditional places like B.C., and Southern Ontario where there’s a population base.
"For a triathlon in the middle of the Prairies to bring in 500 is really phenomenal, and that’s put on basically by the Crowston family. Come race weekend, we also have a great number of volunteers come help us."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 17, 2012