On Sunday morning, April 11, hundreds of swimmers will take to the waters off the shore of South Beach, but none will be taking time to sunbathe. Runners will navigate a course nearby but none will be stopping for breakfast. Two thousand bikers will be out and about, but not doing any slow sightseeing.
Instead, these 2,300-plus athletes will be taking part in the Third Annual Nautica South Beach Triathlon benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“This is our third year and we had about 1,000 participants the first year so the growth has been extraordinary,” said event Executive Producer Michael Epstein. “It’s succeeded beyond our wildest expectations.”
Epstein said the event was launched as a sister event to one held in Malibu in September.
“We were looking for a similar formula — something high profile, beautiful beach, celebrity appeal,” he said. “Once I saw South Beach, I just fell in love with it.”
At 7 a.m., the all-new International Distance Race will kick off with an invigorating 1.5K ocean swim, rev up with a 40k bike over Miami Beach’s causeways, and conclude with a 10K
run alongside Miami Beach’s famous Art Deco District. At 7:30 a.m. participants in the Classic Distance Race will hit the beach for a half-mile ocean swim, 19-mile bike and four-mile out-and back run. Both races will make their grand finish on the warm, smooth sands of South Beach.
Both races are sold out but hundreds of spectators are expected to witness the fierce competition as well as enjoy an activity-filled day. Racers have the option to compete individually or as part of a relay team.
“Last year, we raised $130,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” Epstein said. “This year we will raise more.”
Funds are raised from a corporate challenge for corporate participants and from individual participant efforts.
Rafael Garcia from AutoTrader.com has participated in the triathlon since its inception and actually got involved because of the charitable component.
“I’m not a triathlete by any stretch of the imagination,” Garcia said. “I did it because it was a fundraiser and it turned out to be a lot of fun.”
Garcia said the team he has put together has 25-30 people participating and with the company match of donations, he hopes to have raised $20,000 by next week.
“It’s my only form of exercise,” Garcia said.
As in previous Nautica South Beach Triathlons, celebrity participation is another appeal for prospective spectators. Celebrities expected to compete in this year’s races include co-anchor and national correspondent for NBC’s Today, Natalie Morales; actress Eliza Dushku; former NBA player Rick Fox; Australian triathlete and five-time Ironman champion, Chris “Macca” McCormack; NBC’s The Biggest Loser winner, Ali Vincent; actress Heather Tom; actor Andy Baldwin; three-time Winter X Games freestyle skiing gold medalist, Sarah Burke; and actor Geoff Stultz. Other celebrities set to appear include Hannah Montana and Fame star Anna Maria Perez de Taglé, who will kick off the festivities by singing the National Anthem; actress, model and former professional wrestler Stacy Kiebler, who will start the kids’ run and tot trot; and NFL Carolina Panther running back DeAngelo Williams, who will host the awards ceremony.
The growth in participation in the Nautica South Beach Triathlon mimics an increase in the popularity of the sport, which has been noted in media around the country.
“It had always been a popular fringe sport but over the last five to eight years, it’s just exploded,” Epstein said. “It’s on people’s must-do list. A lot of people plan to do it once and then keep doing it.”
Part of the sport’s burgeoning popularity is that people can compete at different levels. Epstein said the South Beach triathlon is “pretty much” entry level and that training for it could be done in as few as eight weeks. Garcia, for example, described himself as a 40-year-old obese male who does not exercise regularly at all. However, six to eight weeks before the triathlon, he “quits drinking and smoking, gets on the bike and gets ready.” He then competes in the biking portion of the team competition.
“At the end of the day, I am in a lot of pain but it is nothing like the kids at St. Jude,” Garcia said. Enthusiasts feel the event offers good times for a good cause.
“It [the triathlon] is a lot of fun with all of the activities surrounding it — there’s so much going on,” said Junee Warner. “It’s not just you go out and race and go home. With the expo on the beach it’s a great place to spend the day, mingle and meet people that are also enjoying South Florida and contributing to the kids at St. Jude.”
The location also has strong appeal. “I live in South Beach. The starting line is two blocks from where I live,” said Denis Beausejour. “It’s the easiest race to wake up for! The course is beautiful; it’s such a well-set-up racetrack.”
Fifth and Ocean is the epicenter of the race, both for participants and spectators.
“Everything starts and finishes there and it is pretty spectator friendly,” Epstein said.
For more information visit SouthBeachTriathlon