Swim, bike and run for a good cause

ebanon is gearing up for its fourth annual Triathlon to be held at the seaside town of Batroun on May 20. The Triathlon has grown since its humble beginnings in 2009 with only 14 competitors; this year, around 250 athletes are expected at the start line.

“This is the fourth year we have organised a Triathlon in Lebanon. For the first three years, the event was held in Tyre, but, with the much higher participation [rate] this year, we have moved the race to Batroun,” says Anthony Ussher, chairman of the Triathlon organizing committee. “This year, we are expecting 140 individuals and 40 teams of three to join, which gives [you] an idea of the increase in interest in our sport in Lebanon. We have had a really positive response from both Lebanese and international participants, and we hope the day will be a fun challenge for all involved.”

Batroun’s mayor, Marcellino Hark, is all for the event and is looking forward to the influx of athletes. “We are very pleased and proud that the Batroun Municipality is hosting this event,” he says. “With the natural beauty and peaceful atmosphere in the Batroun area, we have a lot to offer our visitors and to have athletes racing around the city’s many attractions is a great way for people to experience our heritage.”

The event consists of a 750-meter swim in the Batroun Bay, near the ancient Phoenician Wall, followed by a 20-kilometer bike ride along the coastal road to Amchit, and finishing with a five-kilometer run through the cobbled souks of Batroun. Athletes will compete either as individuals to complete all three stages of the triathlon or in teams of three with each individual completing one of the races. Competitors will be categorized according to gender and age. 

Triathlons are not a common sporting activity in the Middle East, but it is seeing growth internationally and there are active triathlon federations in Cyprus and in the UAE. “Maybe that is why the response has been so overwhelming. We had to close the registration a month ago, but we are still inundated with requests for participation,” says Ussher. “This is a sprint triathlon, so you don’t actually have to be a superhero to be able to complete it.”

Last year’s overall and male winner Roy Nasr would beg to disagree. He clocked up an impressive finishing time of one hour and nine minutes and is determined to defend his title this year.

"I have been competing for ages and have done hundreds of races around the world ranging from Sprint to IM distance; however nothing feels as special as racing and winning on home turf," he says. "I am very happy to defend my title in Batroun. As a matter of fact, I entered IM 70.3 Austria which takes place on the same date and had to cancel once I found out that our “special” race is on the same day. I am in good shape and have been training hard, so fingers crossed. I hope to put a good performance on the day."

The Triathlon will be followed by a highly anticipated post race fiesta party at the San Stephano Hotel and Resort in Batroun, featuring four live bands including a Cuban brass band, a Brazilian Capoeira Joda show and two live Lebanese alternative bands as well as two international DJs from the UK and Columbia.

“The first Muévete was on 2008, the idea was to bring a tropical beach party to Lebanon. Each year, we have promised bigger and better acts, bands and venues; this year it’s no different,” says DJ Arias from Colombia. “What started off as a Latin beach party has evolved into a world music festival: Twelve hours of live shows, live bands, DJs, sun and beach fun.”

Ussher emphasizes the competitive spirit of the event, but in the end, he says that it’s all about goodwill and raising money for charity. Competitors are encouraged to raise their own sponsor donations and there will be a prize for the highest sponsorship raised. All funds will be donated to the Lebanese Red Cross. Last year, we raised $4,500 for the Red Cross, this year with the larger turnout and greater exposure, the organizers are hoping to significantly increase that amount.
“The event is a wonderful chance to compete in the friendly atmosphere of beautiful Batroun, and afterward to party like there is no tomorrow," says Ussher. “We encourage everyone to come to Batroun for the sport and to stay on for the fun.”

The Batroun Triathlon starts at 8:30 a.m. Sunday May 20, 2012 at San Stephano Resort in Batroun, Lebanon. For more information, please visit their website here.