Marcus Haven is tough. Last year he swam, ran and rode his bike along with 65 other competitors in a South Shore triathlon. Even tumbling over his handlebars toward the finish of the biking leg didn't stop him from getting on the podium. And he was only 3 years old.
"We finished the race, went to the (emergency room) and went back to get on the podium," Marcus' mother, Kathy Haven, said.
The Tahoe Tri Club held its first children's triathlon in 2011. This year, the group decided to raise the event up a notch by bringing three children's triathlons to the South Shore, said Jason Collin, one of the club's chief officers.
"We started it because we're passionate about getting kids active and bringing the athletic community together in Lake Tahoe," Collin said.
Despite a few stitches in his chin, Haven said her son loved the event. He won the sportsmanship award last year and participated in the first race of the 2012 series. The family performer, he even sang the national anthem before the triathlon, Haven said. Her two other children, Alexi, 8, and Christopher, 7, also competed this year.
This Sunday, children 4 to 14 years old will participate in the second race of the series at Lake Baron, a lake that event organizers describe as shallow, warm and spectator friendly. Smaller participants are allowed floaties and a parent-escort as they attempt the swim.
It's a casual atmosphere, and Haven said she wasn't nervous about her children participating since Collin and his event partner Sean Sweeney let the parents stay close to their children. Haven swam the length of the muddy lake with her youngest in 2011 and she said it's a relaxed atmosphere without any "cutthroat competitiveness."
According to Collin, 40 children competed in the series' first race on July 1 and he expects similar numbers for the Aug. 12 event. Those competitors came from far and wide this year, many traveling in from Reno and Carson City. There was even a Canadian in the mix.
"The word's starting to get out and people are planning a destination around it. (Children's triathlons) are definitely gaining popularity. That was one of the things we wanted to do, introduce kids to the sport," Collin said.
TriFind.com, a triathlon calendar, lists children's triathlons in every state. According to the site, more than 100 of the events are in California. The sport seems to be gaining momentum and the Tahoe Tri Club is excited to be a part of it, Collin said.