A local elementary school held a "Bike Rodeo" aimed at promoting biking and bicycle safety. The kids moved through a series of stations aimed at teaching them how to fit and put on a helmet, ride safely in the road, avoid hazards, and use hand signals. They also completed an "obstacle" course designed to reinforce the lessons learned.
In addition to these stations, various local organizations were present to lend assistance and provide information. Local police showed up with MacGruff the Crime Dog and a well received magician. A local bike shop provided a mechanic who tuned up bikes the kids were riding. Brandon's Champions, a group dedicated to promoting bicycle and helmet safety in conjunction with medical information carriers, provided packets for the kids and had helmets available for those in need of them.
I was able to attend as a representative of the Fox Cities Triathlon Club and shared information about both biking and triathlons. Though the bike mechanic was perhaps the most popular person there, the kids were very enthused about the opportunity to learn about triathlons and the equipment used in races. It made their day to learn that they aren't the only ones told they MUST wear their helmets. I'm sure the other gear helped keep their attention, as well. After all, the police had a magician, but I had a wetsuit.
While there, I also had the opportunity to speak with some adults about triathlon opportunities. The most common reaction was, "Oh, I couldn't do that." When asked why, their response was nearly uniform. "I could never (swim/bike/run) that far." In every case, they were completely unaware that triathlon could mean something other than "Ironman."
Several of them, after learning that their are local events with 220 yard swims, 8 mile bikes, and 1.8 mile runs indicated they might enjoy trying such a race. While most people are aware that there are dozens of different distances for running races, all too many people believe triathlon is synonomous with Ironman. Responsibility for this lies, in large part, on our shoulders. We must take every opportunity available to share our passion for endurance sports with others. And we must make sure we let people know that "endurance" doesn't have to mean 140.6 miles. No more than "run" means 26.2 miles.
Likewise, we should work to promote unity across the spectrum of endurance athletics. My local tri club does a lot in that effort. They participate in marathons, duathlons, and triathlons. They host both a triathlon and a major bike ride. They welcome endurance athletes of any type into the club, and membership is free.
Another free organization with a like mind is raceAthlete. While many of its members are triathlons, it is a group focused on all types of endurance events. Cycling, running, triathlon, ultramarathoning, whatever. And a great deal of effort is put into promoting events of all distances. The 5K runner is right next to the marathoner. The sprint triathlon is as much a triathlon as Ironman. A 30K time trial holds the same merit as a century ride.
We are all endurance athletes. And we are all ambassadors for the various sports we love. While much of our time is dedicated to training, some part of our day should be set aside for sharing our passion with others. As more people come to understand how many options they have, participation in all endurance events will increase. And that can only have a positive impact on the world.