Brad Atkins is gearing up for another transition.
With less than two weeks to go before the third-annual Possum Town Triathlon, Atkins is putting the finishing touches on an event that is coming off drawing nearly 150 competitors last year. Atkins hopes to hit that target in the final home stretch — or the final transition — in the sprint to the finish line.
“We have gotten a lot of good reception from businesses and a lot of good support,” said Atkins, who came up with the idea to hold a sprint triathlon in Columbus with his wife, Melissa. “We have a lot of good sponsors and product sponsors. The businesses are behind it.”
Atkins praised the work of Nancy Carpenter and the Columbus-Lowndes Visitors Bureau for their support of the event and the half marathon that is held in conjunction with the city’s annual celebration of Tennessee Williams.
The sprint triathlon will kick off at 7 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 16, at the boat ramps off Wilkins Wise Road in Columbus. It will feature a 600-yard swim, a 17-mile bicycle ride, and a 3.3-mile run. All of the information about the course can be found at possumtowntriathlon.com. Registration for the event is $80 for an individual and $130 for a relay team of three.
Atkins said about 100 athletes have signed up to compete this year. He hopes that number will climb to 150 in the final week. He is confident the success of the first two races and the positive feedback he has received from triathletes, runners, cyclists, and fitness enthusiasts around the state will help to increase the size of the field.
Atkins said competitors won’t see a lot of changes to the course this year. He said swimmers will come out at a different spot, possibly 25 yards different from the one they used last year, that he hopes provides better footing for athletes as they leave the water and move to the transition stage to take off their swimming apparel and put on their cycling gear.
Atkins said the cycling and running course is pretty flat and will take athletes on Wilkins Wise Road and onto Highway 45. He said police and volunteers will be on hand to ensure the safety of all of the athletes and to direct them if they have any questions.
Volunteer support at the triathlon is something Atkins has been especially pleased with in the first two years. He said the first two races attracted more than 50 volunteers, and more are welcome to join the fun this year. Information about volunteering also is available at possumtowntriathlon.com.
“I think that is what makes our race really stand out,” Atkins said. “We have a lot of good volunteers support. People have commented on that each year. It’s good that people come out and spend part of their day with us.
Prizes will be awarded to the top finishers in each age group. Atkins also said competitors will receive a T-shirt and a Polar water bottle. He also said food and refreshments will be provided by Sweet Peppers Deli.
Atkins isn’t sure how much longer he will continue to organize and run the event. He takes pride, though, in knowing the city of Columbus has come together to support an event that was designed to help people be more active and to promote a healthier lifestyle. He hopes he can be a part of an event like that for a long time.
“It’s fun to see new triathletes and people trying to get active and to do it for the first time, or to do our race for the first time,” Atkins said. “Once they do it, it can end up turning them into an active person. That is kind of why we started it. We have had several athletes who have done that.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.