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Born to run

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BAXTER — A record-setting 311 youths participated and finished in the 2012 Brainerd Kiwanis Kids Triathlon Aug. 25. And, I am proud to say; my son and daughter were two of them.

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This was Jackson’s second year. He is my 9-year-old dynamo. Fortunately for him, he inherited his father’s athletic prowess and competitive nature.

My daughter Isabelle, on the other hand, is much more like her mother. This was her first year participating. She was most interested in the T-shirt and cookies at the finish line; however, I do give her credit for giving it a shot and seeing the entire race through.

The triathlon, now in its fifth year, encourages youth to develop a healthy lifestyle and habits year-round, and encourages exercise and activity versus TV and video games.

Mike Dillon, race director of the Kiwanis Kids Triathlon, has been involved since the beginning. Together with Chris Robinson, co-director, the guys pitched their idea of a youth triathlon event to the local Kiwanis Club as an event to keep kids active in the latter part of summer.

“The overall mission of Kiwanis is to improve the lives of children, essentially,” Dillon noted. “We do that in a variety of ways on a local, national and global scale. Our club is really focused, and tries to do as much as we can, locally. Seeing a trend in the health status of our youth and rising obesity rates, we wanted to create an event that encouraged kids to get outside those boxes a little bit; stretch themselves in terms of goals and accomplishments.”

The triathlon is devised in two age brackets. Children ages 5 to 9 years first swim 25 yards, then transition to the cycling portion where they bike two miles; then, finally, run for one mile before crossing the finish line. The upper division, ages 10 to 14, is exactly double the distances — 50-yard swim, four-mile bike ride and two-mile run. The entire event is held on and around the Whipple Beach recreation area in Baxter and is supported by nearly 100 volunteers, as well as the city of Baxter.

“It wasn’t set up to be an easy event,” Dillon explained, “but meant to be a little bit of a challenge for the kids. From a kids triathlon standpoint, ours is one of the longer ones they can do.” But Dillon also noted it is their intent to not only create healthy training habits prior to the event, but ones that will last all year-long.

“The goal is that they are training throughout the year for this race. We hope they first set a goal to finish the race,

then determine how they need to get there. They realize at that age, you’re not just along for the ride. You need to set some goals and get out there.”

Since 2008, the Kiwanis Kids Triathlon has grown, starting with an initial 185 finishers. Each year participant numbers have increased about 10 percent.

Troy Couture, pediatrician at Essentia Health-Baxter Clinic, had both a son and daughter participate in this year’s event for their third and second time, respectively, and commended the Kiwanis organization for raising the bar to encourage youth to aspire to a healthier lifestyle.

“I enjoy this event as a father in the sense of confidence and accomplishment that my children feel in finishing this race,” Couture said. “It is a friendly and encouraging atmosphere that promotes this confidence.”

From a pediatrician’s standpoint, Couture said he is pleased to see a community event that promotes exercise and activity, and enjoys seeing so many of his patients and their families participating in the event.

“I am always trying to promote the importance of healthy lifestyle from a very early age. Proper nutrition, along with exercise and an active lifestyle are the foundations of this healthy lifestyle. This event not only promotes this part of a healthy lifestyle, but does so in a way that is fun. It proves that healthy living can be supported by communities working together and encouraging activity. The fact that this event is growing and has so many returning participants is a testament to this. The fact that my kids look forward to an event that revolves around exercise is a testament as well.”

■ JENNY HOLMES is a freelance writer who lives in Nisswa with husband Tim and children Jack and Izzy.

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