Personal Best

This year, the Tinman Triathlon celebrates its 30th year. One athlete shares how it’s truly a race for everyone.


Author Rachel Ross, left, and training partner Katherine Nichols, at last year’s Tinman.

Photo: J. Bryan Simmons

They call the Tinman Triathlon “The People’s Race.” Nearly 1,000 people—many of them first-time triathletes—will participate on July 25. The crowd that pours into Kapi‘olani Park at 5 a.m. on race morning is diverse, showing that everyone willing to put in a little training time can conquer the Tinman, an 800-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run. This year, a handful of those racing will be completing their 30th Tinman, having never missed a single one.

The morning of my first Tinman, I arrived afraid of the distance and intimidated by the other athletes. I chatted with the woman next to me while we treaded water, waiting for the start. I knew who she was—Katherine Nichols. She had won this race before, more than once. She belonged there. Her two children were waving from shore and my three were toddling around in diapers in the park nearby. We both placed in the top three that year, and have trained together for much of the five years since. We run at 5 a.m, swim between work and school pickup, and ride whenever we can squeeze an hour in.

Last July, we lined up with the male athletes, in the front row. She and I had both been busy with the endless juggling of full-time jobs and single-parenting. We were under-trained, sleep-deprived and worried about bigger things. We didn’t have time for a triathlon, but agreed to meet there anyway. At the start line, the excitement of the people was contagious. The gun went off and we raced for the win, finishing as the women’s first and second.

Teenagers, retirees, the people you see downtown, the teller at your bank—they’ll be at the Tinman. And moms will be lining up at the start with the boys, telling each other that they’re in it to win it. It’s the People’s Race.

The Tinman Triathlon starts at 5:30 a.m.
For more information, visit



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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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