By Dr. Steve Jonas, Nov. 16, 2020
Yes, biathlon. That’s what the Run-Bike-Run events were called back in the early days of the sport. The name remained the same until 1996, when triathlon was accepted as an Olympic sport. (The first Olympic Triathlon was held in Sydney, AU, in 2000.) Since there is an Olympic Winter Sport called biathlon (that is, cross-country skiing and target shooting) a name change was required. The International Triathlon Union simply changed the prefix from Greek to Latin. And our version became Duathlon.
Anyway, my journey to my first biathlon began at the end of my second triathlon, the East Coast Championships held at Long Beach Island, N.J. in October, 1983. After my first race, the Mighty Hamptons at Sag Harbor, N.Y., I was so excited about the experience that I searched around to find another one that I could do before the end of the season. And somehow, even with no Internet and Google, I found this one. At the end of that race, in a booth set up for the purpose, I found one Dan Honig, one of the earliest Spirits of Triathlon. He sat at a table promoting his then nascent Big Apple Triathlon Club. (It became the New York Triathlon Club. I am still a member and to my knowledge, for quite some time I have had the lowest still active Member No., 366.) I was (and still am) an inveterate joiner. And so, I signed up on the spot.
Communications were of course by mail in those days (at least for me. I did not join the World-of-Email until the late 1990s.) Early in the Spring of 1984 came a notice from Dan about a new type of multi-sport event called “Biathlon.” It was to be held in May, 1984 at the old Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn, NY, which in its youth in the 1930s had been a well-known “Naval Air Station.” By the 1980s, long since retired from active duty, it had become part of the National Park Service. Dan and I have both done some research on the matter and we think that that race was the very first one of its type ever held. Dan had come up with the idea for the purpose of extending the multi-sport racing season earlier into the Spring and later into the Fall, dealing for one thing with water too cold to swim in either season. (This was before the invention of triathlon wetsuits.) And so there I was, in my third race overall, on my way to doing what was very likely the first biathlon, ever.
As for the race itself, the good news was that of course, being on an old airfield, the course was flat. The bad news was that early in May it was cold and rainy. The good news was that the weather conditions led to a shortening the course. I no longer have a record of the lengths, but it was likely a 2-mile run, a 12-mile bike and a 2-mile run. I don’t remember much of that race, but I do know that even in the rain I had a good time and I had a pretty good idea that I was going to continue in multi-sport racing. (Obviously, for how long that would turn out to be, both in time and distances, I had no idea.)
I did three more triathlons that season. (Why only three? Well, I was still a sailor, from the mid-1970s, and those two sports conflict, in terms of the weather. I sold the boat in 1985. I had loved sailing, but you can’t do both. And in addition to the constant thrills, triathlon/duathlon is much healthier, and much cheaper.) I finished off that season doing my second marathon, the Marine Corps in Washington, DC. (My first marathon had been the Dallas White Rock, in Dec., 1983.) I was hooked on distance-sport racing, to be sure, and at the end of that season, already looking forward to the next one.
This series of thoughts and recommendations about multi-sport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, 101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
Steve’s most recent multisport book is Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
His first book on multi-sport racing, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®, 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Steve has been racing tri’s and du’s since 1983. At the start of his 37th season in the sport, 2019, he had done a total of 256 races.