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Canada’s oldest triathlon celebrates 41st running despite pandemic

Seven athletes banded together this weekend to celebrate the 41st running of the Smiths Falls Triathlon

Photo by: Jen Brown

The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t going to stop athletes from continuing a tradition in Smiths Falls, the site of Canada’s oldest triathlon. The small Eastern Ontario town of Smiths Falls has hosted a swim/ bike/ run event since 1980 and, to keep the tradition going, a group of seven athletes put on their own version of the race last weekend to celebrate the 41st running of a triathlon race in Smiths Falls.

Last Sunday, June 28, seven athletes came “together to keep the triathlon alive,” according to local coach and organizer Corey Turnbull.

The Smiths Falls Classic Triathlon started in 1980 when “two high school friends, Andrew Comstock and Bernie Merkley … decided they wanted to host a triathlon event,” according to a press release sent out by the town. The efforts of the two Smiths Falls High School students became the first triathlon with the “standard swim/bike/run format to take place on Canadian soil.”

“With seven people we were able to maintain social distancing and follow local health policies,” Turnbull says. “It was more just for fun and to keep the race going.”

At its most popular the Smiths Falls Classic Triathlon has attracted as many as 1,000 competitors and, in years past, has included both standard- and sprint-distance races. The event is now organized by Ottawa-based Somersault Events and would have included sprint triathlon and duathlon races this year on June 20, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The athletes who took part in the event were: Greg Earle, Kim Schryburt-Brown, Chris Elmsley, Robin Hull, Kris Plant, Chris Brown and Malcom Stadig. Plant had the day’s fastest time, according to Turnbull.

“The Smiths Falls triathlon is an event near and dear to many people. It contributes socially, culturally, and economically to the identity of Smiths Falls,” Turnbull says. “It was important we continued, even if it was a modified version of what it normally is.”