Women’s tri still going strong after 29 years

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Thousands of women have completed in the Nelson Women’s Triathlon over the past 28 years, but the one woman who has been at the centre of it all has never taken part in the fun.

Not that Averil West minds, she says the stories and sense of accomplishment from the competitors is her fun.

“Some of the stories that the women have told are pretty amazing, some have battled some pretty nasty illnesses and disease and this has been a little carrot at the end of the hard journey. It’s pretty tear-jerking stuff, there are some pretty tough women out there.”

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The start of the Nelson Women’s Triathlon in 2014. Photo: Marc Palmano/Shuttersport.

The McFadden McMeeken Phillips Lawyers Nelson Women’s Triathlon is preparing for its 29th edition next month, where an expected 250 women will run or walk, bike and swim their way to the finish line.

Averil has been the key organiser every year, more recently along with her daughter Amanda, but says she has never been tempted to take part herself.

“I tried competing in a half marathon that I was also organising once and I couldn’t concentrate on the race. I was thinking as I was going down the road, ‘where’s that marshal who’s supposed to be there…’ I don’t switch well from being an organiser to a participant.”

Despite never doing it herself, she says the women’s triathlon was started as way to get more women competing in a more welcoming environment.

“Women weren’t being catered for so we thought ‘let’s go for something that is women only, then they will be recognised and it will be their event, done for them, their way, as opposed to being plumped into a male world, like women often are’.”

A little over 100 took part at the first event in 1987, over the years entry numbers have reached as high as 500, with 250 the norm over recent years.

Averil says its success is due to its focus on people taking part for the first time. “The whole idea is that anyone can take part. I don’t like to get into body shapes and sizes, but they’re all there but they are all a part of the event and they all have their own little journey that they’re going on. We’re just creating a venue for that to happen. “There’s nothing like seeing women – if it’s a real struggle for them – getting out of that pool… it’s really special.”

This year a team’s section has been added, catering for teams of two or three to cover a leg each. There is also a young mums section for those who have given birth or adopted in the past 18 months.

Averil says she has been organising the event for more than half of her life and believes there is still plenty of life left in it. “I don’t see a finish date yet. There is still good demand, so while women want to do it, we’ll keep running it.”

The McFadden McMeeken Phillips Lawyers Nelson Women’s Triathlon is on April 3 from 8am. To register for the race visit www.nelsonevents.co.nz