Time to tri+ it

Spend too many leisure hours on the couch watching the rest of the world pass by?

Organisers of the annual Waitaria Bay Classic Tri+ encourage people of all ages and stages of fitness to venture out and try a little physical exercise. This year's event is on Saturday, January 18 and starts with a 4 kilometre kayak, followed by a 4km cycle, then a 4km jog or walk and ends with a 50m swim.

"That brings everybody together, it's just a bit of fun, hence the tri-plus," organiser John Dixon says about the swim.

Waitaria Bay, in the Kenepuru Sounds, is outside the regular competition circuit but is the perfect setting for a holiday challenge.

"We wanted to have something that mum and dad or somebody with a little bit of fitness could have a go in and they could succeed in," John says.

"With our lifestyle today, the way things are, there's so much luxury.

"It's easy to sit on the couch."

John has a long history in New Zealand athletics.

From 1976 to 1988 he represented this country in cross-country and track, then coached his brother, Olympic bronze-medal athlete Rod Dixon.

When John was 40 he was selected for the World Masters Games in Melbourne where he won the 1500 metre and the 5000 metre world titles.

"As a result of the 1500m world title they assembled the seven fastest milers at the time at Florida to have a go at breaking the world record: 4 minutes 16 seconds."

Racing in tropical Florida after leaving winter-time New Zealand had been hard for John but he came third and was among the contestants who broke the world record.

Back home, he started preaching about sport and turned his attention to helping others improve their fitness levels.

"I started a joggers club in Nelson and ended up with 300 to 400 people," he said.

Participants included chain smokers and overweight women, people who had never previously exercised and a few who were in their 70s. Together they helped motivate each another and started competing in 10km races, half-marathons and even marathons.

"That was a reward to me."

When John and his wife Dianne moved to Waitaria Bay, a group of women approached John and asked if he could help them improve their fitness.

Word got round and a Waitaria Bay fitness group was formed, attracting 20 to 30 members. They meet each Sunday for a walk, cycle and kayak, training for a series of events marked on the calendar to stay motivated. Last year members took part in the Forrest Estate Grape Ride, the Marlborough Marathon and the Kaikoura Whale Run.

The Waitaria Bay Classic Tri+ on January 18 starts at 10am for individuals or teams, for people 12 years and older. Prizes include a new Radzik/Takacs Family Challenge Cup for the first family to finish and a new Mateen Jenkins Memorial Trophy for the first woman home. The latter is a tribute to Mateen Jenkins, a keen athlete who competed in the five previous Waitaria Bay Classic Tri+ events but was killed in a Blenheim road accident last year. A Junior Tri course for children ends the day's events, followed by 12.30pm BBQ sales and spot prizegiving.

For more information email dianneandjohn@silkweb.net.nz or telephone 03 573-4420.

The Marlborough Express