I was sitting at my neighborhood pool doing absolutely nothing of value - I don't mind admitting that - when a dozen bicyclists ran into the enclosure. They trotted across the pool deck, leaving a trail of helmets, gloves, shoes, sunglasses and spandex as they stripped.
I was getting mildly concerned until I realized they had bathing suits on underneath the stuff they were peeling off. They yanked on goggles, hopped into the water, swam one lap, climbed out, ran back to their bicycles and disappeared. Since the lifeguard didn't seem to think anything was wrong, I asked her to explain what I had just seen.
It was a fundraiser, she told me, for a local charity, the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. The event was called the Columbia Pedal and Paddle, and it was a 45-mile supported ride through the town of Columbia, Md. Columbia has 23 pools that are affiliated with the Columbia Association. The goal of the ride was to bicycle out from a central starting point, hit every pool and swim at least one lap there before finishing up. Is that a creative fundraiser or what? I love this idea.
I recognized two of the cyclists who came by during the day as a husband and wife who played in my racquetball league. They were incredibly jazzed to be doing the pedal/paddle event, which is an annual tradition for them. "It's great!" my friend yelled over her shoulder as she ran toward her bike. "We look forward to it!"
While endurance and multisport events have a well-deserved reputation as challenges for hardcore athletes, they can also be fun for a wider audience if creativity is applied. And so can fitness as a whole. Fitness of any kind shouldn't be a chore or an impossible challenge. It has to be attainable and it has to be fun.
Watching people embrace the two-sport challenge made me wonder about other creative sports fundraisers and whether they could be used to be bring the non-exercise crowd into the fitness fold. I'm sure there are plenty of opportunities. But I can hardly wait for next year when I can try this one for myself.