By Karlene Skretting
Westwind Weekly News
In what would have been the 12th Annual Magrath Triathlon this weekend, the committee decided earlier in the year to take a hiatus from the annual event and give loyal longtime volunteers a much-deserved break.
“After 11 years of service, spending their entire morning doing that, we decided to take a year off and give the volunteers a break and let the volunteer fatigue wear off and hopefully generate new volunteer support for next year,” said Dennis Strong, race director. He and his wife Shawna have spearheaded the race since 2005.
Strong is particularly referring to the emergency services volunteers, that have willingly, and continually given up prime vacation time with their families, to make sure they are around so the race is possible.
“In order to get our license to do this from Alberta Transportation we have to have trained flag people at the critical intersections and have access to flashing lights and emergency services,” said Strong pointing out that only a handful of people in the small town have the proper certification, so it has been the same people, year after year.
The loyal participants have been supportive of the year off, they realize the amount of time and energy that goes into organizing the race, shared Strong.
That’s not to say there aren’t disappointed that they’ll be missing out on the Magrath Tri this year.
“We miss it because it is one of the few races with such a strong community feel and that is driven by Dennis and Shawna and the personal care and attention they put into all the details. And the huge number of volunteers who supported the race,” shared Maureen MacDonald who has participated in the race with the Healing Mochas for the last eight years.
The group is holding a “Not-the-Magrath-Tri” in their hometown of Calgary this weekend, they even rented a pool, as to not break their tradition and miss out on the fun memories they make in Magrath.
Though disappointed, she can see how the locals volunteers could have burned out, always going the extra mile.
“The first year we did it in 2007, there was construction on the highway, and they were hand sweeping the highway to make sure that there was no debris on the road for race morning. That just doesn’t happen.”
“I think that [a year off] is a fabulous recognition of the volunteers and my hope would be that they appreciate that rest so much that they come back even stronger next year.”
It may be bad timing because last years race was almost called off due to a lack or interest, and a last minute media blitz was what helped to make the race one of the largest with 205 entrants. Regardless, as the only open water swim triathlon south of Calgary many will miss it.
“Every other triathlon south of Calgary is a pool swim, which is a great race nonetheless, but to do it out in the open water simulates the original Iron Man and triathlons which were swam out in the ocean. It takes us right back to the origins of the sport.”
That aspect alone leaves Strong confident that participants will remember the race and sign up for 2016, even with the year off. He said it may even help, if people miss the race to increase next years participation.
Strong and the rest of the committee plan to look at the 2016 triathlon in December or January, but he hopes to see it run the second Saturday of July as has become custom.
“If we can count on the support of the community and its many great volunteers then we would certainly love to put the race on again next July.”