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Sartell: Duathlon Capital of Minnesota
By Marisa Helms
July 7, 2000
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There's the Tour de France, Wimbledon in England, and - for the last 20 years - the Apple Duathlon in the small central Minnesota city of Sartell. Winners of the race, qualify for the United States team at the World Duathlon Championship in France this October.

WHEN THE TWO-SPORT event of run - bike - run took hold in the mid-'90s, it was called a biathlon. However, the duathlon's organizer, Daryl Stevens, says people found the name confusing.

"Five or six years ago, the Olympic committee said, you can't use the word biathlon again. Because biathlon for many years has been the ski, rifle-shoot event. And you've all seen that in the Olympics. So we had to change it and duathlon's kind of a mouthful, but that's what they came up with," Stevens said.

Fifty-seven-year-old Daryl Stevens has been organizing the yearly duathlon event for the past 18 years. This year, the event takes on increased importance since it's a national qualifying event. Duathletes who win in Sartell, will go onto the world duathlon championships.

Daryl Stevens and his wife, Pam, train six days a week, running or biking every day, sometimes doing both events each day. "It's a sport not just for the young," Pam Stevens says. "What I really like is the change of events, both running and biking. And not just the steady pounding of running. I like going from one event to the other. It's rather challenging."

The race starts with a 6.2-mile run, then switches to a 26-mile bike ride, and then back to a 3.1 mile run.

Duathlons require strength, endurance and a strong mindset to make it to the finish line. Though duathletes come from many walks of life; professionals over 35 years old seem to be particularly attracted to the sport.

"In a sort of metaphysical way, the event becomes a condensed version of how we deal with stress and how we deal with challenge in our own lives."

- Tony Shiller
Tony Shiller, 42, of Chanhassen , has competed in hundreds of duathlons and competed in last year's world competition. He says younger people may not be as attracted to duathlons because it requires a fair amount of "intestinal fortitude."

"I don't know if it's our MTV culture, our remote-control world or the microwave world," he says. "It seems like a lot of the younger people that come forth haven't had the same physical challenges in their life; that may be more intellectual challenges with computers and everything else, so the idea of going out and sweating for three hours is not high on their list of priorities.

"I think it's a nice metaphor for life. In a sort of metaphysical way, the event becomes a condensed version of how we deal with stress and how we deal with challenge in our own lives. It puts us under a magnifying glass and you begin to see where you turn when you're in trouble and how you handle those stresses."

The event injects about $1 million into the Sartell and the Saint Cloud economies. "It's a great event for our community," says Sartell Mayor Bob Pogatshnik. "It is something that's a very positive event that gives us a chance to show people who've never been to Sartell what Sartell is all about and what the community looks like."

Duathletes hope their sport will be an Olympic category someday. This year, the triathlon was finally accepted into the 2000 games held in Sidney, Australia.