5th annual Great River Challenge triathlon coming to Northfield

  • About 60 athletes participated in the 2018 Great River Challenge, an off-road triathlon that includes paddling, running and mountain biking near Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center. This year’s triathlon is set for Oct. 5. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • About 60 athletes participated in the 2018 Great River Challenge, an off-road triathlon that includes paddling, running and mountain biking near Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center. This year’s triathlon is set for Oct. 5. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Glenn Minshall

  • A kayaker cuts through the water on the Connecticut River during the 2018 Great River Challenge triathlon. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Glenn Minshall

  • A racer flashes a smile while running the trails during the 2018 Great River Challenge triathlon. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • A competitor gets ready to take off for the bike leg of the 2018 Great River Challenge triathlon at Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Glenn Minshall

  • About 60 athletes participated in the 2018 Great River Challenge, an off-road triathlon that includes paddling, running and mountain biking near Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center. This year’s triathlon is set for Oct. 5. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Glenn Minshall

Staff Writer
Published: 9/11/2019 6:13:57 PM

NORTHFIELD — With more than 20 miles of uninterrupted river stretching around Northfield, from Vernon in Vermont to Turners Falls in Massachusetts, the Connecticut River has been deemed “The Great River.”

The river will be the center of a non-traditional off-road triathlon next month, consisting of paddling (instead of swimming), running and biking. The fifth annual Great River Challenge, to be held Oct. 5 at the Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center, is distinctly unique, using the longest river in New England as part of its course.

“Northfield is one of the few towns that spans both sides of the river,” said race founder and Director David Thomas.

The river offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains with easily navigable shorelines. Northfield Mountain provides access to the river and 26 miles of maintained trails.

“We tried to design a course that was pretty simple and wasn’t on the road too much,” Thomas said.

Thomas founded the Great River Challenge in 2013 to foster greater awareness of the upper Pioneer Valley’s cultural and natural resources while encouraging a healthy, active lifestyle.

The concept for the race was introduced to the Northfield Kiwanis Club and Northfield Area Tourism and Business Association (NATABA), which helped to get the event up and running. Thomas said he was inspired to create the race after seeing information for a similar non-traditional triathlon in the Berkshires.

“We thought there was a similar culture here with interest in the outdoors and arts and culture,” Thomas said.

Steve and Joan Stoia, co-founders of NATABA, have worked with Thomas to brainstorm ways to give back to the community, including providing money to charities through the Northfield Kiwanis Club, which benefits from race proceeds.

“NATABA has been trying to brand the area as a destination,” Steve Stoia said, noting that out-of-town participants are encouraged to explore Northfield. “There are now organizations from across the country who are choosing this site for their races.”

The Great River Challenge, having grown steadily over the last five years, attracts upwards of 100 participants and their supporters to the scenic area, Thomas said.

With short and long course options, the race invites athletes of all skill levels and ages to participate, either individually or as a team. The race uses professional timing services to measure racer performances to qualify for prizes in several race categories.

The Iron Man and Iron Woman categories have a single racer competing in all three legs of the race. The two-person team category has both members paddle and compete in one other leg each. A three-person team has one member compete in each leg, with a four-person team competes in a tandem canoe or kayak.

The long course is 16 miles total, while the short course is 11.25 miles. The first leg of the long course is a 5-mile paddle by kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard, whereas the short course is a 4-mile paddle. The second leg is a 4-mile trail run on the long course, and 2½ miles on the short one. Lastly, the third leg is a 7-mile mountain bike ride on the long course and a 5-mile ride on the short one.

The race costs $65 to register as an individual racer, or $100 for a two-person team. Two-person junior teams (under 18) pay $73 per team.

Participants must bring a valid photo ID to register. Minors may bring a signed waiver from a parent or guardian. This policy is for the safety of the racers, Thomas said, as it will provide the insurance for the competitors in case of an injury.

After the race, The People’s Pint, which grows its hops at Four Star Farms down the road from Northfield Mountain, will provide food and refreshments. A masseuse will also provide massages to race participants.

For more information about registration and regulations, visit greatriverchallenge.com.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.




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