Organic, local, sustainable... and a little bit weird.The idea of an urban triathlon arose from two observations: urban triathlons are overwhelmingly popular in U.S. cities, and no such triathlon existed in Portland. A confluence of events and circumstances in 2007 provided the impetus for such a race:
- Renewed emphasis on the development of the riverfront as a focal point of the city.
- Hagg Lake as the host for USA Triathlon's national championships in 2007 and 2008, focusing attention on Portland as a triathlon destination.
- The rise in popularity of triathlon nationally, especially among women and in urban centers.
- Annual recognition of Portland as one of the best cities in the country for cycling, running, and walking.
- Interest in resurrecting the Willamette River as a legitimate source of pride and recreation.
The Portland Triathlon, Today
As The Portland Triathlon has grown from it's starting point in 2007, some big changes have occurred. In 2011, Athletes Lounge purchased the triathlon from its founder, Jeff Henderson. In 2012, The Portland Triathlon moved north to Cathedral Park, where we have room to grow, a better, faster course, and neighborhood excitement. In 2012, the race sold out for its first time, with over 940 athletes registered. The triathlon is one of the "20 Best Triathlons in America" according to Men's Health Magazine... but we could have told you that.
Sustainable and Organic
Large athletic events often do not consider sustainability or resource depletion when creating or producing the event. Cost is normally a primary objective, with convenience and ease of implementation a close second.
The City of Portland did not gain a reputation as a "green" city by religiously targeting bottom lines, and likewise The Portland Triathlon weighs social and environmental responsibility heavily when making decisions. This approach recognizes that triathlons are public events which require acceptance by the local population to thrive.
In all cases local providers are given preference over regional or national sources. The necessary triathlon infrastructure (swim buoys, bike racks, etc) has been created from recycled or used materials whenever possible. Participants are asked to carpool, take public transportation, or ride their bikes to the race, with incentives provided for doing so.
Local and sustainable extend to food, as well. Organic produce is used for aid stations and pre-race, and locally sourced food is served at the post-race meal. Recycling and composting are integral.
Major triathlon in the United States is becoming commoditized, with race management companies increasingly taking the place of local, independent events. With this contraction of the marketplace has come a watering down of the product, an unhealthy focus on revenue, and a deteriorating quality of race experience for the athlete.
The Portland Triathlon is produced locally by Athletes Lounge and the surrounding community. Rather than being managed by paid employees residing elsewhere, the race is directed by a diverse committee of volunteers with the following agenda:
- safety of participants
- enjoyment by participants
- emphasis on creativity, sustainability, and responsibility
- allegiance to community
- lasting, meaningful relationships with like-minded businesses
A safe, enjoyable triathlon is our focus. But we will go beyond that. Triathlon can be a family sport, with members from multiple generations participating together.
The city of Portland has the potential to host one of the marquee triathlons in the United States, alongside events like the Boston Triathlon, Escape from Alcatraz, and The City of Philadelphia Triathlon. A dedicated community, civic pride, creative organizers, and social awareness will make this race unique and treasured.