In 1897, a “world-champion” long-distance walker by the name of Fred Miller, with his dog Guess in tow as his companion, was found in Hell’s Half Acre celebrating his most recent feat, a journey by foot from Pittsburgh to El Paso.
That conquest of distance indeed merited revelry, though Mr. Miller and Guess were ultimately sent to the police station that afternoon “to cool off.”
On Sunday, a festival gathering is planned on almost the exact spot to mark the triumph of more than 600 athletes, who will transcend the so-called limits of endurance.
The Tri Fort Worth, the city’s first full- and half-distance triathlon, will finish in Worth Square at Main and Ninth streets in front of the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena.
It is one of only a handful of independent full-distance triathlons held annually nationwide. Organizers said that and the party at the finish line are what make this event unique in the triathlon industry.
A beer garden, food, and live music, from 11a.m. to 10 p.m., headlined by “The Voice’s” Matt Tedder, will be featured for the friends and families of competitors or simply the curious. A big screen with drone footage will allow onlookers to keep up with the race.
“This event will be somewhat unique with the festival atmosphere around the finish line,” said Todd Speer, a race promoter. “It’s a different setup than most triathlons. At most endurance sporting events, there are no entertainment options and no food opportunities. We’ll provide both of those.
An expo with dozens of vendors will be set up in the convention center arena.
The race, a joint venture of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Trident Sports, itself is a big deal for the city.
The 140.6-mile full triathlon will start at 6:45 a.m. with a 2.4-mile swim at Marine Creek Lake. After hopping out of the water, competitors will jump on their bicycles for a 112-mile ride north past Chico and back to downtown to the convention center arena, the staging area for the bikes.
The 26.2-marathon start awaits them there.
The winner will likely finish in nine hours or so, considerably less time than it took Fred Miller to traverse six states, but no less a wonder of the human spirit.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling finishing,” said Karen Bass, who completed her first triathlon last year at The Woodlands, an Ironman competition. “I couldn’t believe I could do that.”
The half tri is 70.3 miles, which is made up of a 1.2-mile swim, 56 miles on the bike, and a half marathon.
Race director Tim Tarpley initially had talked to Ironman about doing this race, but an agreement was elusive. Pulling this race off without the infrastructure of an organization such as Ironman was also a test of the human spirit, Tarpley said.
In place are about 40 sponsors, Tarpley said, including a principal partner, Albertsons/Tom Thumb. Most, if not all, agreed to sign on for three years, Tarpley said.
In all, 100 competitors will take on the full course, 560 on the half, Tarpley said. Race registration was boosted slightly at the last minute by dropouts in the Tulsa Triathlon, which was rescheduled because of heavy rainfall and high water levels at Birch Lake.
“I think it worked out better for all,” said Speer, referring to Ironman not sponsoring the race. “We wanted a Fort Worth look and feel to the race, and I think we achieved that.”
Organizers will also need an assist from Mother Nature.
Thunderstorms are in the forecast Saturday, with a slight chance for more on Sunday.
Only lightning or perhaps high water at Marine Creek will cause problems. Mere rain won’t stop the race.
However, there’s the party to think about.
“We’re trying to approach this in a different manner,” Speer said of the festival. “It’ll be an electric atmosphere.
“Now we need an assist from Mother Nature.”
Who knows … perhaps Fred Miller can help with that.