On a rainy May afternoon, many kids might prefer to sit at home watching Netflix or playing Fortnite. But for 276 young athletes in Reston, Virginia, rain wasn’t going to get in the way of race day. On May 13, the Reston Youth Triathlon was held for boys and girls from ages six to 15 to benefit the Childhood Brain Tumor Foundation.
The organizing group, Amy’s Amigos, was founded in 2008 by a group of 12-year-olds in support of their classmate, Amy Boyle. Amy died in 2008 of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, a form of brain cancer, inspiring her friends to organize an annual triathlon. It has become a very popular event, raising over $100,000 for CBTF since the first race was held in 2011.
“Amy was super athletic, she was always playing basketball or soccer, and we wanted to do something that encompassed her spirit. Even through her battle with cancer she was always very energetic and upbeat,” recalled Olivia Wolfe, one of the race’s original founders and a close friend of Amy’s.
The triathlon itself is all locally based. The swimming leg takes place at Ridge Heights, a public pool; the biking portion takes participants through trails in the woods nearby; and the running portion wraps up the race on the track of South Lakes High School.
“Reston is a great community,” said Hannah Becker, another one of the original founders of the race. “It has a really great triathlon community as well.”
While the participants in the race might not be as serious as their grown counterparts, don’t think that they’re not training. Nine-year-old Jackson Smouha recalled training with his friends for two months by swimming laps at the local YMCA, biking down the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park trail located next to it, and then running afterward.
After the racers crossed the finish line, they were met by a large spread of pasta and salads, along with complimentary snow cones for participants and volunteers alike.
Not only do the kids run in the race, but they also get involved in the charity effort. “We have a program where kids can create fundraising teams and they can fundraise individually; we call them our VIPs,” Wolfe explained, with Becker adding that the six groups raised over $4,000 for the cause.
The slogan of Amy’s Amigos reads, “Living fit, loving life, having fun.” When asked about how that relates to what the group wants kids to get out of the race, Becker said, “Amy loved having the ability to participate in sports and enjoy that aspect of her life, and we want kids to focus on the fact that you have this body and you can do really great things with it.”
The physical triathlon includes swimming, running, and biking, but what outsiders don’t see is the mental triathlon of developing character, sportsmanship, and leadership skills. The race may be the big show, but Amy’s Amigos believe the most important part is what the kids get out of it.