Just over the Squam River Covered Bridge, it was quite obviously not a typical Sunday on the shores of Little Squam Lake. With a drone camera flying high overhead capturing heroic efforts, 515 racers crowded in to give their best at the 7th Annual Circle Triathlon. This spirited family event attracted locals and visitors alike with an overwhelming feeling of camaraderie in the air. Another 500 spectators lined the course, leaning out over the fencing, to get a glimpse of the next athlete coming down the pike. Fans unabashedly cheered on beaming 5 year-olds taking on the triathlon for the first time.
And there it is. The Circle Triathlon genuinely connects all ages and abilities in one very unique experience. What other event has their participants boast, “Probably the toughest short bike ride in Central NH” and “Circle Tri exceeded my expectations. Just look at the pictures. Have you ever seen so many smiling faces at a triathlon?” and “The kids races were awesome, those are the biggest kid races I have ever seen!”
It is noteworthy to mention that the product of this event is put on by 99% volunteer effort, 125 people to be precise. Year after year noble, volunteer race directors come back for more “Circle Tri”, directing the bike, run, swim, kid’s races, finish line, registration and food. Leading the charge since the beginning is Martha Macomber and Barry Gaw, the volunteer founders and event Co-Directors, each of whom are past board members for the event beneficiary, Circle Program.
As observed by a 2014 participant, “This is an awesome event, and it is getting better every year.” As with any long-term success the Circle Triathlon grows and evolves to meet the needs of the community. For example the Circle Triathlon has always welcomed adaptive athletes to participate in the event. In 2014, inspired by Barry Gaw, of Sippican Partners, and Geoff Krill, Executive Director of Eastern Adaptive Sports (EAS), an idea was born. Gaw set up an online fundraising page for the event, challenging all to make the connection, “What does an EAS athlete and a Circle Girl have in common?” He explained, “They make it happen. They challenge themselves. They overcome. They learn and grow. They help others. They give others hope and inspiration. They do what seems impossible. They make us realize what matters. They build community. They inspire us to do more then we think we can. What they do matters so much more than what we say.” Gaw then announced that with the funds donated to his page ($3,650), half would go to Circle Program and the other half to EAS. A partnership was formed.
In this 7th year a record $40,000 was raised for Circle Program, a non-profit serving NH girls with a fully subsidized residential summer camp experience and year-round mentoring. Who are the Circle girls? Circle girls have warm hearts, bright potential and limited economic resources. If you participated in the Circle Triathlon a Circle girl likely handed you your finisher’s medal or stuffed your event goody bag or sold you a Circle Tri hat or raced alongside you or cleaned up after it was over. The Circle Program gives these girls a helping hand up and the skills, courage and self-confidence to handle the challenges in their lives. Circle Triathletes and fundraisers should know they are directly responsible for supporting the livelihood of the Circle Program. A 2014 Circle Tri participant makes another connection, “I would like to add I went to Dunkin Donuts after. A woman who realized I had been at the race thanked me profusely. She was there with her mentee [Circle girl]. She made me feel so good about doing it I doubt I will miss a year.”
The total amount raised is made up by entry fees and athlete fundraisers with event expenses offset by generous business sponsors. Athlete fundraisers have historically made up a whopping 50% of the amount raised. Generous of time, spirit and heart, these Circle Triathlon participants invite friends and family to support their team by making a donation to their online fundraising page, ultimately supporting Circle Program. Colorful business sponsor signs adorn the finish line chute while long-time Circle Tri emcee, Dr. Daniel O’Neill, MD, gives periodic shout outs of thanks. It is a loyal bunch. In fact, Dr. Dan is a business sponsor himself with 550 Circle Tri water bottles donning his name. If you have been to any Circle Triathlon you have borne witness to Alex Ray, of Common Man, flipping pancakes for the masses as the talented Art Harriman plays his guitar. Donations are collected in a coffee can, for safe keeping, and then donated to the Circle Program. In 2014 the Circle Triathlon lucked out when Common Man officially signed on as the Event Sponsor. Founding Sponsor, Sippican Partners, continues to gift the event venue and hard-working volunteers with muscle, vision and skill.
There is a feeling that permeates at the Circle Tri, sometimes lasting several days after the event. It is a feeling of camaraderie, of joy, of vulnerability, of celebration and of connection. In this day and age where many of us are saddled up to our personal handheld devices and armed with caution, the Circle Tri delivers a vital dose of genuine, corporeal community connection.
As one veteran Circle Triathlete proclaims, “It is still a great non-sanctioned race, for everyone, of all abilities. I will participate until I can no longer float, hammer & jog!” By the words of the Circle Triathlon motto, may you all find “the skills, courage and confidence to Tri” in 2015. Registration is open at www.circletriathlon.org.
Within the Circle Tri community, we are the racers, volunteers, donors, Circle girls, sponsors, fans, mentors, staff, parents and board members, all connected harmoniously in partnership. Thank you all for your connection to this treasured community.