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World’s First Triathlon Commemorated In San Diego

The new plaque unveiled in Mission Bay to commemorate the world's first triathlon here in San Diego, February 20, 2015.
Nicholas McVicker
The new plaque unveiled in Mission Bay to commemorate the world's first triathlon here in San Diego, February 20, 2015.

Forty years ago last September, 46 track enthusiasts took to Fiesta Island one morning to bike, run and swim in Mission Bay. On Friday, many of those original triathletes met at the starting point of that race to celebrate the unveiling of a new plaque to commemorate the occasion.

“You’re a piece of living history for this sport that’s going to go on for generations,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said to the crowd. “Way back when a couple folks might have thought it was crazy... who's going to run, bike, swim?”

“I still do!” someone shouted from the crowd.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Councilmember Lorie Zapf, and the original triathletes gather around the plaque for a photo, February 20, 2015.
Nicholas McVicker
Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Councilmember Lorie Zapf, and the original triathletes gather around the plaque for a photo, February 20, 2015.

“The fact that it has become one of the premier sports, certainly in the world, I think is a testament to the San Diego spirit,” Faulconer said. “The history started here and I don’t know that a lot of San Diegans know that.”

In 2013, 2.3 million people finished triathlons in the United States.

RELATED: San Diegans Remember World’s First Triathlon 40 Years Ago — At Mission Bay

Don Shanahan, one of the original planners for the first triathlon, had no idea what it would become.

"At that time, the San Diego Track Club was kind of the game in town, and we put on a lot of different events," Shanahan said. "I came up with the idea of adding a bike to the run, swim, and it was just kind of a fun thing."

He said that first triathlon was a low-key event and only cost a dollar.

“No, we never expected it to explode like this,” Shanahan said.

The Triathlon Club of San Diego also gave out beach towels to the original triathletes to celebrate the event. The club's next triathlon at Fiesta Island is Sunday, March 15.

World's First Triathlon: First Person View of the Route

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