The Triathlon

By Amy Miller

This may sound like bragging – I ran a triathlon last week – but it’s not. Why not? Because I am as slow as molasses. I look like I should be fast, being tall and all, but believe me, I am not. And so I know that YOU can run a triathlon too. Now in its seventh year, the Pumpkinman has become popular for people from across New England. But more exciting, it has become a thing to do in our own town. People who have never run a race find themselves training alongside neighbors who have also never run a race. And lo and behold they all finish.

Psychologists in the field of health and fitness have been saying recently that research shows exercise could be better encouraged by emphasizing the day to day rewards instead of the eventual weight loss or years added to your life. The truth is, most of us are motivated by the here and now. And let me tell you, there is little better to brighten up your day, even your week, than spending under two hours competing in a triathlon.

Two community members decided to create this event. And it’s simply beautiful. The swim is in a private pond, one of the few triathlons based on private land. The bike goes through the rural hinterlands of South Berwick, passing near the Agamenticus conservation area. And the run is a loop that skirts some of the town’s remaining farmland.

Saturday is the sprint – one third mile swim, 14-mile bike and three-mile run. This year 35 people from my town showed up to race that morning. Sunday is reserved for tri-athletes who can manage a half iron-man triathlon: a 1.2-mile swim; 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run. Nearly 600 people come to town to compete. But even Sunday is a community event as dozens of school kids, parents, families and athletes get up at 3, 5 or 7 am to staff a water station on Pond Road, hold a flag at the corner of Lebanon Road, or mark number s on the legs of athletes.

And there are the local heroes. Like the elementary school principal who competes both days. He considers his participation an important part of role modeling for the hundreds of fourth and fifth graders who go through his school each year.

OK, I’ll confess. It takes me just under two hours. Twelves seconds under. I told you I’m slow. But I still feel good the rest of the day.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.