GOING THE EXTRA MILE: Atkins gearing up for triathlon

July 19, 2012 11:56:46 PM

Adam Minichino - [email protected]


Brad and Melissa Atkins have done nearly all there is to do when it comes to endurance training events. 


From half-marathons to marathons to triathlons, the Atkins know what it's like to train and then to test your body's limits. 


Next month, the Atkins will take a different test. This one should be less taxing on their bodies, but it figures to provide a challenge for plenty of athletes from the state of Mississippi and beyond. 


At 7 a.m. Aug. 18, the Atkins will kick off the inaugural Possum Town Triathlon. The start and finish for the "sprint" triathlon (600-yard swim, 17-mile bike ride, 5-kilometer run) will be at Columbus Lake at the Lock and Dam on Wilkins Wise Road. 


"I think it will be good for the community and good for the town," said Atkins, who competed in his first triathlon in 2007 after running, doing half marathons, and marathons, including the New York City Marathon. "We certainly can't do it alone. We need people to get the word out and help from the city. We're certainly going to need everybody's help to make it bigger." 


Atkins hopes to make the Possum Town Triathlon an annual event and to build tradition in it much like the 26th annual Sunfish Triathlon, which was July 14 in Meridian, and the 33rd annual Heart O' Dixie Triathlon, which will be July 28 in Louisville and Philadelphia. 


Like those events, Atkins believes the Possum Town Triathlon will attract plenty of athletes from Northeast Mississippi. He said several competitors from the northern part of the state already have signed up, as well as athletes from Starkville, Alabama, and Tennessee. His goal is to draw from a 150-mile radius and to make it as big as possible. 


The Atkins were thinking big when they decided to move ahead with plans for the Possum Town Triathlon. After competing in duathlons at Lake Lowndes State Park, Brad wanted to branch out and bring a bigger event to Columbus. He felt incorporating the boat ramp and the Lock and Dam were perfect ways to realize that goal. 


Little did he know the challenges he and his wife would face in organizing the event. 


"We have been working on the triathlon since February," Atkins said. "If we can get support for this thing hopefully it will get to the point where it will be like clockwork and everybody knows what they're supposed to do." 


Atkins said the Golden Triangle Running and Cycling Club already is providing support as are plenty of volunteers who will serve in a number of capacities. He said even more sponsors and people are needed to help, so he asks anyone interested in volunteering to go to the website and contact him. 


"It has been a lot more to organize this thing than we really thought, but we're trying to do it right," Atkins said. 


In an attempt to match more established events, the Atkins are trying to organize a triathlon that has plenty to offer. Brad Atkins said the event will be timed and will have big buoys on the Columbus Lake to help swimmers know where they are when they're in the water. He feels the preparation he and his wife are putting in will work well with what he believes is an ideal distance for beginners and for seasoned veterans. 


With the race date a little more than four weeks away, Atkins said anyone who is "reasonably fit" should be able to compete in and finish the triathlon. Even though he would fit into that category, Brad Atkins is going to sit this one out with his wife. After all, they have too much left to do and will be too busy on race day to be jockeying for position in the water or on land. 


That's OK because the Atkins will get their triathlon high from putting on a good event and watching other athletes accomplish their goals. 


"I have always wanted Columbus to host an event like this," Atkins said. "I think we have the right size town, a great town, a good host city, plenty of places to eat, and we're no smaller than other towns putting them on, except maybe Jackson, and we're a little smaller than Tupelo," Atkins said. "I think it is a good place to have it, and I think Columbus needs it. If we can promote this and get people outside running, cycling, and swimming or just off the couch doing something that is satisfying." 


For more information and to register for the event, go to www.possumtowntriathlon.com. All registration has to be done online. The cost before July 22 is $60 for individuals and $110 for a relay team. After July 22, the cost is $70 for individuals and $120 for a relay team. The registration deadline is 9 p.m. Aug. 17. There will be no race-day registration. 


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.