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Reston’s Kid’s Triathlon Celebrates its Fifth Year W

BY JESSICA BIGGER  PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK MAJOROS, JORDAN MAJOROS AND SEAN BAHRAMI

hen you watch the video of the first kids' triathlon five years ago, the words that come to mind are “intensely emotional.” You see kids from all walks of life participate in a race that begins with swimming, moves to biking, and ends with running to the finish line. You can hear the crowd of parents and supporters cheering the kids on. Each child is elated every step of the way. Every single participant has a huge smile and their enthusiasm is contagious. They are having a fantastic time, and the feeling of accomplishment when they cross the finish line is amazing. Reston Association (RA) always hosted two adult triathlons per year, one where 15-year-olds could participate, but they never imagined putting on a kid’s triathlon until they started seeing children of the race participants get involved as they cheered their parents on with remarkable excitement. RA observed a growing movement where the kids were just as enthusiastic about the race as their parents. So it made sense to create a separate triathlon just for kids. With such enthusiasm growing, RA collaborated with the YMCA, Laurel Learning Center, and Amy’s Amigos to create the first kid’s triathlon five years ago. The race sold

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out in minutes and has continued to sell out every year since. One of the amazing things about this race is that it has inspired so many children from different economic backgrounds to participate every year. RA not only celebrated its 5th anniversary putting on this amazing race, but also recognized the children who have participated for all five years. When Laura Kowlaski, then RA’s Aquatics Manager, made the kid’s triathlon a reality and teamed up with the YMCA, Laurel Learning Center, and Amy’s Amigos, each organization had very different goals for how the proceeds should be used. Fifty scholarships from the race proceeds were created for a variety of different programs. Plus, several community members and businesses donated bikes and gear to give to less fortunate race participants. The Reston Association and the YMCA’s mission were more aligned with each other. RA wanted to use the proceeds to create scholarships for its summer camps, classes, and other programs it provided. The YMCA also wanted to provide scholarships for several of their programs. Laurel Learning Center would use the proceeds to create training clinics for less fortunate children. Amy’s Amigos, a group of three friends who created a nonprofit in order to honor their

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friend Amy who died of a brain tumor, wanted to use the funds to provide after-school programs. The kid’s triathlon, which took place on August 2nd, was split into three age groups: 6-8, 9-11 and 12-14. Each group raced at different distances. The youngest group raced the shortest distance. The age groups stop at 14 because 15-yearolds can participate in the half triathlon along with adults. The day before the triathlon, all the participants picked up their T-shirts, swim caps, and race numbers. Most of the kids were very excited. Some were a little bit nervous ,and the volunteers focused on getting those kids excited and looking forward to the race the following morning by joking with them and making them feel more comfortable. “The goal is to have them smiling before they walk away, so that they are excited for the race day,” said Laura Kowalski, who is now RA Deputy Director for Recreation. During the clinics the day before, the staff and volunteers made a few jokes to get the kids laughing and looking forward to the next day. “All the kids are sitting in the front and all the parents are standing in the back…kids are the focus, so we joke with them and say, ‘Okay, make sure your parents get their coffee and make sure your parents set their alarm clock early, because you have

to be here early, and we don’t want them to make you late,’” explained Kowalski. The RA staff also talked about nutrition in a funny way, said Kowalski, using “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” as an example, which the kids could relate to. They were asked, “If you lived in the land of Chew and Swallow, what would be a healthy breakfast before the race?” The morning of the race, the kids arrived at 8 a.m. at Ridge Heights pool, set their bikes on the rack, and said goodbye to their parents. There were an incredible number of volunteers to help support all the race participants. Parents, however, were not allowed to volunteer. They were encouraged to be on the sidelines to cheer their children on. There was some waiting initially, but the volunteers helped keep the kids occupied and focused on the race, and reminded them it’s about finishing the race, not about winning. That was the most important thing for the kids to remember. Prior to the race, the parents positioned themselves on the sidelines, ready to cheer their children on and encouraged them to finish. Right before the race began, all kids waited at the pool deck ready to start. The youngest group, 6- to 8year-olds, began the race swimming

Reston Fall 2015  

Reston Association publication

Reston Fall 2015  

Reston Association publication