Kid Stuff

Kids of Steel

kids’ triathlon mixes biking, swimming, running, and fun

Claire Jeffries |

Kids of Steel Triathlon is not this summer’s tween blockbuster. It’s an annual event put on by the YMCA for 5- to 12-year-olds that involves biking, swimming, and running/walking. The goal, says Carmen Peterson, director of the program, is to promote the health and well-being of kids, mixing physical activity with fun. “The event is not just for YMCA members; it’s for the community,” said Peterson. She’s seen this event bring parents and children, friends and families, and even complete strangers together. Peterson said the energy is incredible as everyone is cheering on the kids as they cross the finish line. “It’s a time when the kids get to be the stars,” said Peterson.

Carol Fahrenkrog, who first began the Kids of Steel Triathlon, got the idea from her husband, who had participated in many triathlons. There isn’t an event quite like it in the area, and this particular age group doesn’t have many events to be involved in. And so she started the Kids of Steel.

They had been looking for a name that would sound tough. The “YMCA Kids’ Triathlon” didn’t have the right ring to it, but when they stumbled upon “Kids of Steel,” it felt just right. The T-shirts were better. “It was so cute seeing these kids in their ‘Kids of Steel’ T-shirts with a picture of an ant flexing its bicep,” said Fahrenkrog.

The sense of accomplishment from the triathlon is also important. “Kids are under a lot of pressure. There are people who tell them they need to do better in school, or be better in basketball, or beat this time. This triathlon isn’t timed. Every kid finishes, and every kid gets a medal,” said Fahrenkrog. She said that it’s fantastic to see these kids cross the finish line glowing with pride. It’s something they can complete on their own.


    It also surprised her how many parents were able to “let their kids go.” They are still there cheering on the sidelines, but the children bike, swim, and run on their own. It’s their event. It also gives parents an opportunity to expose kids to “their world.” Some parents run, or bike, or do triathlons, and this is a way to expose their kids to that. But it’s also a way to expose parents who have never tried this sort of thing, give them a taste of what a triathlon could be and get them to try it. “It goes both ways,” said Fahrenkrog.

“The triathlon gave my kids a sense of accomplishment; they were so proud they did it. They are also excited to improve. It’s good to see them grow in that,” said Christy Riley-Wittig whose kids have been in the triathlon for five years. She said that parents should get their kids involved because it’s a lot of fun, it’s good for their morale, and it’s a way to get them to exercise. “When those kids cross the finish line, it’s like they won an Olympic gold medal. It’s great for them to be involved in something like that; it’s a real positive experience,” said Riley-Wittig. It’s an event of self-accomplishment and community. It’s just “something that wasn’t here before,” said Fahrenkrog.

Kids of Steel Triathlon. Sunday Sept. 21 at 2pm. Owen Park (check in at Schaaf Gym). $25 in advance, $35 day of race. 836-8460.