In the past, I have never seen myself as someone who would ever compete in a triathlon, and for one primary reason—I am terrible at swimming.
My view on swimming is simple: do it to survive. Because of this, I have shied away from doing any triathlon-type event.
Yet, on September 17, 2022, I participated in my first triathlon: The DSI Triathlon and 4k Run/Walk/Wheel. The second annual event, hosted in Red Wing, Minnesota, consisted of a six-kilometer paddle, a ten-kilometer road bicycle ride, (with the option for a fifteen-kilometer mountain bike portion), and a ten-kilometer run.
Though it is not the only triathlon to incorporate a paddling element instead of a swim, there is something rather unique about DSI’s Triathlon and 4k Run/Walk/Wheel—the event supports the organization's mission to “Advocate, Support, and Empower to improve the lives of people with disabilities in developing countries so they can live life to the fullest.”
It was this mission of empowerment and inclusiveness that showed throughout every leg of the event. There were all manners of paddle-powered crafts, from single and double-person kayaks to canoes and even one paddle board. Some people completed each section independently, while others participated in a relay, taking on different portions as a team. In addition to the triathlon, there was an inclusive 4k Run/Walk/Wheel, which sounded like a blast.
Through and through, this event was a celebration of inclusion and community.
In all, 85 people took part in the event, and DSI exceeded its fundraising goal, with over $11,000 being raised to continue to support their mission!
The completion medal awarded after crossing the finish line made this event more special for all event participants. DSI gave each finisher a plush fabric ornament. What was unique about these ornaments is that they were made by youth with intellectual disabilities served by one of DSI’s Cambodian partner organizations. These ornaments are a way of connecting those participating in the triathlon and 4k event with the individuals with whom DSI partners within Cambodia. To me, there is no more significant symbol of completion than I could have received.
Next year, the DSI Triathlon and 4k Run/Walk/Wheel will return to Red Wing, Minnesota for the third time. I know I will be there, excited to support an organization that takes pride and focuses on inclusion—not only in our local communities but across the globe.