“To me the word Bikaru conjures up a feeling of outdoor recreation and camaraderie and that is a big part of what I was trying to accomplish with this event”. This is how John Kelley, the founder of the Bikaru describes this unique word for what is becoming a more and more popular multi sport event that is impossible to classify. For some it is a race. Others use it is a training event. And for the rest, it is simply a chance to spend a couple of hours along one of New Brunswick’s most picturesque rivers, the Kennebecasis. And this couldn’t make Kelley any happier.
As an avid runner and a passionate advocate of outdoor sports and general fitness, Kelley was looking for an event that would accomplish several goals that are important to him when he hit upon the idea of the Bikaru. Primarily the event is meant to showcase the route of the Kennebecasis Valley Challenge Marathon and Marathon Relay, of which he is also the founder and race director, but to do it in a way that appeals to a much wider group of athletes than simply marathon runners. The Bikaru is also a way to build a base of community support for the fall marathon. And just as importantly for Kelley, the Bikaru gets people of different fitness levels outdoors and moving.
The Bikaru starts with a 10 kilometer run, followed by a 25 kilometer cycle and finishes with 7 kilometers of kayaking along the Kennebecasis River for a total marathon distance of 42 kilometers. The run and ride are along the marathon route with the kayak portion paralleling the route. Slightly different from a triathlon, each leg has a mass start and doesn’t begin until all the participants are into transition and have had a chance to recover. Participants are encouraged to do as much as they are comfortable with. Some do one, two or all three legs while others do it as a team. Each leg is individually timed.
The Bikaru is held the first weekend in June making it the unofficial transition from preseason training to competition. According to Chantal Beam, one of New Brunswick’s competitive triathletes, “the Bikaru is a great, low stress way of gauging my cycling and running fitness levels going into the racing season. And with the mass starts for each leg it adds a nice social aspect to the event. A lot of us aren’t kayakers so the last leg is just a riot with the boats bumping into each other while we all try to get going in the right direction. It is really a fun event.”
Kelley is also an avid sea kayaker so adding the kayaking leg was a chance for him to introduce people to a new sport. As well, since a 7 kilometer swim wasn’t feasible, the kayaking leg is a good substitute. A 7 kilometer paddle along an open river is just the right length for people to get a good workout, especially those new to the sport. At points along here the river is more than 2 kilometers wide so when the wind picks up it can become quite choppy adding a little more thrill to the event.
The KVC Marathon has earned a reputation as a fast course with a high number of PBs and Boston qualifiers but it attracts just as many runners for its scenery. It is probably for some of the same reasons the Bikaru is popular with local triathletes. The running portion starts in the rolling farmland of Bloomfield, about 50 kilometers east of Saint John, New Brunswick and finishes in the small town of Hampton. The run is fairly flat resulting in some quick 10K times. The ride from Hampton to the bedroom community of Quispamsis starts with a couple of challenging hills that from the tops provide great views of the Kennebecasis River and Darlings Lake. The second half of the ride is right alongside the river and is flat and fast. One of the nicer aspects of this event is that both the run and the ride are along quiet roads without a lot of car traffic. The paddle goes from Quispamsis to the historic town of Rothesay, where it finishes at the Kennebecasis Kayak Club.
In keeping with the attitude of participation, there is no entrance fee or prizes. The winner of each leg and the person with the overall best time each get a free registration to the KVC Marathon with the caveat that they must give it away.
The event wraps up with a social at the finish line with pizza supplied by Mike Geogoudis, who is both a participant and part owner of one of the race’s major sponsors, Vito’s Restaurants.
So, is the Bikaru a race, a training day or a nice outing? It’s all three.