Sixth Annual Great River Challenge Off-Road Triathlon in Northfield coming in October

  • Racers paddle on the Connecticut River in Northfield during the 2019 Great River Challenge Triathlon. A racer prepares to transfer from the running leg of the Great River Challenge to the biking section of the 2019 triathlon at the Northfield Mountain recreation center. Contributed Photo—

  • Racers paddle on the Connecticut River in Northfield during the 2019 Great River Challenge Triathlon. A racer prepares to transfer from the running leg of the Great River Challenge to the biking section of the 2019 triathlon at the Northfield Mountain recreation center. Contributed Photo—

Staff Writer
Published: 9/9/2021 5:49:44 PM
Modified: 9/9/2021 6:26:53 PM

The Great River Challenge calls on all paddlers, runners and cyclists as the off-road triathlon returns for its sixth year in Northfield next month. The race will be held on Saturday, Oct. 9.

Race founder and director David Thomas encourages outdoor enthusiasts and athletes to grab their boat, sneakers and mountain bikes and head up river to First Light Power’s Northfield Mountain recreation facility for an incredible race that has challenged and delighted athletes of all levels for the past six years. Additionally, the non-profit race benefits the Northfield Kiwanis Club’s youth group initiatives.

While canceled last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great River Challenge has grown steadily since being founded in 2013 and attracts upward of 100 participants and their supporters to the scenic area. 

After more than a year during the COVID-19 pandemic where community events and races were canceled, Thomas said many “were pining for competition” and he looked forward to bringing the race back this year. He also noted that he is expecting to see some new faces participating this year, as outdoor sports have seen a big boon in participation amid the pandemic when people were looking for more outdoor activities and to improve their health.

“I’m heavily involved in paddle sports community,” said Thomas, who is the co-owner and a design team member for Stellar Kayaks USA. “I’ve seen local, small races that were normally 12 people now have up to 40 racers.”

With more than 20 miles of uninterrupted river stretching around Northfield, from Vernon, Vt., to Turners Falls, the Connecticut River has been deemed “The Great River.” The race offers both exciting long and short routes where teams of contestants face three distinct trials.

The long course is 16 miles total, while the short course is 11.25 miles. The first leg of the long course is a 5-mile paddle by kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard, whereas the short course is a 4-mile paddle. The second leg is a 4-mile trail run on the long course, and 2½ miles on the short one. Lastly, the third leg is a 7-mile mountain bike ride on the long course and a 5-mile ride on the short one.

With short and long course options, the race invites athletes of all skill levels and ages to participate, either individually or as a team. The race uses professional timing services to measure racer performances to qualify for prizes in several race categories. Individual, relay team, “Iron Person” and “Short Course” categories make the race accessible to participants from 12 to 70 years old.

The unique event offers fitness, food and fun on a beautiful fall Saturday in the heart of New England. It underscores the array of outdoor recreational opportunities that make Franklin County a great place to live and visit while supporting the Kiwanis Club of Northfield’s outdoor campership program for families in need. COVID protocols are in place this year along with the usual high level of safety provided on and off the water by Northfield and Gill first responders.

Teams must register in advance as there will be no day-of registration. To register, and for more information on the race, visit www.Greatriverchallenge.com or https://www.facebook.com/greatriverchallenge. Individuals and Teams can take advantage of “touchless” registration through www.runsignup.com.

The long course costs $70 to register as an individual racer, and up to $200 for a four-person relay team. The short course costs $50 for individual racers, and up to $165 for a three-person relay team. 

Food and drink will be provided by the Northfield Kiwanis Club or racers as part of the entry fee. Thomas said the non-profit event sees fundraising conducted with the help of race sponsors, which is paired with a majority of the race entry fees to provide $2,000 to $3,000 each year to benefit the Kiwanis Club’s youth initiatives. 

“Kiwanis and the Northfield Area Tourism and Business Association gave us the seed money for the race years ago,” Thomas said. “We’ve given that back four-fold by now, but it’s our mission to keep on doing this for the community.”

Sponsors include: Greenfield Savings Bank, First Light Power Resources, the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, the Northfield Golf Club, The Brewery at Four Star Farms, Viles Insurance, Stellar Kayaks, King & Cushman Insurance, Franklin County’s Y and Centennial House Bed and Breakfast.

Reporter Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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