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By offering affordable entry-level triathlons, INTOTRI has ambitions to do for triathlon what parkrun has done for running

by Kath Hudson | Published in Sports Management Sep Oct 2017 issue 133
Michael Burkert is removing the barriers to triathlon with accessible events
Michael Burkert is removing the barriers to triathlon with accessible events

“Despite triathlon being a friendly and fast growing sport – especially thanks to Team GB’s success on the world stage – there are a few barriers to participation,” says INTOTRI founder, Michael Burkert. “The swim – especially if it’s in open water, the idea of getting on a bike wet, having the right gear and the expensive entry fees.

“With our events we’ve removed the barriers,” he says. “Events are affordable, or sometimes free. People can stop and rest in the swim. Even walk if they want to. We don’t include transition one in the overall time, so people can go to the changing room after the swim. They can use any kit – even a tandem bike – and there are no cut off times.”

Because the target audience is people coming back into sport after a few years, or who are confident in one discipline, but not all three, the distances have been set in order to be achievable, but still feel like a challenge. The super sprint distance is a 400m swim, 10km bike ride and 2.5km run. There is also a junior distance (200m, 4km, 2.5km) and for those who want to progress, a sprint distance (400m, 20k, 5k).

Elmbridge Xcel Leisure Centre at Walton-on-Thames in Surrey was the first site to come on board, and now hosts monthly events from April to October, with events currently reaching capacity of 125 two weeks prior.

Business growth
This year the business took an unexpected quantum leap forward when Tempus Leisure lost the contract to run the leisure centres for Cornwall County Council and its successful triathlon and mini-tri series looked set to languish. INTOTRI took over and the series has not only survived, but thrived. This season there have been five pool-based sprint distance (400m swim, 20k bike, 5k run) triathlons, a triathlon at the Cornwall Games and six mini-tris, which have five different age categories and attract around 400 children per event.

Next year, Burkert plans to increase participation in Cornwall by 30 per cent. “We’re going to roll out some new locations with attractive event formats, such as a Newquay triathlon, where the run and finish will be at the zoo, as well as another event at Plymouth’s Life Centre, where the 10 lane pool will allow 20 competitors to start at once,” says Burkert. “We’ll also tie up with more schools and surf life saving clubs to grow events, such as an open water event at Falmouth, and will run more scootathons so that even younger kids can get involved.”

Burkert has ambitions to grow the concept across the country, and even overseas, so is actively looking for more partnerships with leisure centres. Little is required other than pool time. INTOTRI takes care of the insurance, risk assessments, child protection policy, the route, marshals and marketing.

“It brings a new audience into centres,” says Burkert. “Triathlon brings people back to the pool. Once they are inspired by triathlon they might then take out a swim membership, have swimming lessons, or join the gym to work on strength training for the bike and the run. The events also bring secondary spend on food and beverage.”

CORNWALL triathlon in numbers

Participation: 1600 juniors, 500 adults

Gender Split: Juniors – 49% female, 51% male
Seniors – 40% female, 60% male

Age split juniors: 8y (14%), 9-10y (40%), 11-12y (33%), 13-14y (11%), 15-16y (2%)

Age split seniors: <40y (39%), 40-50y (37%), 50-60y (17%), 60y+ (7%)

Triathlon experience: 20% novice, 47% limited experience, 32% experienced

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