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Article updated: 8/2/2013 12:13 PM

Naperville Sprint Triathlon expects more than 2,000 people


It may not be a marathon, but it's certainly no sprint.

True, Sunday's Naperville Sprint Triathlon is so named because it's a short-distance triathlon. But nobody's calling it short.

The race consists of a 400-meter swim, a 20K bike ride and a 5K run through downtown Naperville and the surrounding area, beginning and ending at Centennial Beach, 500 W. Jackson Ave. Last year's winner, Colin Riley of Tallahassee, Fla., needed 56 minutes and 17 seconds to finish all three legs of the race.

"This is the perfect entry-level triathlon for people to get into," said race director Bill Burke of New Orleans-based Premier Event Management, which organizes the race each year. "(First-time triathletes) have got to get their feet wet."

Sunday's triathlon will be the 11th installment of the event and the 17th year Burke has had a hand in organizing a race in Naperville. The triathlon began in 1996 as a biathlon with just a run and a bike ride. After six years it was converted into a triathlon.

Burke says the location is one of the best of some 50 events he helps organize each year because Centennial Beach is so unique. He says first-time triathletes are often hesitant about the swimming portion of the race, but the beach's shallow waters and lifeguards provide some reassurance for uncertain triathletes.

The race begins at 7 a.m. Sunday and more than 2,000 participants already have signed up. Online registration is closed, but aspiring triathletes can still sign up at the Naperville Running Co., 34 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville.

Many roads in downtown will be closed Sunday morning because of the race, but will be reopened by roughly 11:30 a.m. A complete map of street closures and parking restrictions is available on Naperville's website.

"It's just a good time for a lot of people to come check the city out if you've never been to Naperville," said Kyle Brady, an employee of the Naperville Running Co. "Having the restaurants is good for families to come hang out and go out to eat afterward. I don't think too many (triathlons) are that close to a downtown area."

Brady, 25, of Wheaton, is a runner himself, but has never participated in a triathlon -- though he wants to some day. He says the atmosphere in downtown Naperville on the day of the Sprint Triathlon is electric. In the 6 years he's worked at Naperville Running Co. the triathlon has grown noticeably.

"The athletic community has grown, too," he said.

Burke can attest to that. The first event he ever organized was a 10K in New Orleans with about 900 participants in 1979. Before long the event -- the Crescent City Classic -- had ballooned to more than 30,000 participants.

And even though he organizes triathlons and ironman competitions in more than 40 cities, he always finds his way back to Naperville.

"We're always wanting to come back to this town," Burke said. "I love this city, this event. Everyone wants to say they're a triathlete and (here) they get to do that without the intimidation (of a full triathlon)."

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