ROXBURY, NJ - Bikes lined the parking lot, balloons hung over the finish, water reflected eager faces and kids waited for the whistle to blow.
The sixth annual Tri Harder Triathlon in Roxbury took place Thursday at Horseshoe Lake Park in Succasunna. Roxbury officials and employees organized the event, with other volunteers and sponsors helping.
It’s a triathlon without timers, first place trophies or any training required. According to Roxbury Councilman Fred Hall, its purpose is to mainly “promote fitness for young kids.”
Routes varied by age; older kids had longer courses while younger kids had shorter ones and other aids, including lifeguards swimming with them and helping them out of the water.
Lifeguard Sam Remete, who was pulling kids out of the pool, said he “just likes to cheer kids on” when they’re swimming in the event.
Lifeguards also talked to the younger children they swam with. They learned their names and cheered for them as they swam.
Participants started in the water, swimming from 25 to 100 meters depending on age. Then they ran to where bikes and trikes were waiting in the Horseshoe Lake parking lot.
Parents helped dry off the little athletes and suit them up in safety gear before they sped off towards the path near Eyland Avenue, where they turned back after lengths ranging from half a mile to two miles and then parked their bikes back where they started.
Kids ran from there around routes ranging from a quarter of a mile to a mile and a half, while police officers and other volunteers guided them and stopped traffic accordingly so runners could continue.
Roxbury Resident Lynne Jackson cheered for her own daughter but also encouraged other runners, saying she did so "to let them know [the community] cares.”
Everyone finished in front of the Roxbury Recreation Center under a balloon-studded archway. When they crossed the line, Hall and Roxbury Mayor Mark Crowley handed out medals and gift cards for free ice cream at Cliff’s Homemade Ice Cream in Ledgewood.
Roxbury Recreation Director Keith Knudsen said that, in the end, “anybody who finished wins.”
Next year, Knudsen said he hopes the triathlon will be held earlier in the year in order to get more kids involved.