Tuesday August 21, 2012

A little more than a decade after race director Patty Spector welcomed kayaks to the Great Josh Billings RunAground triathlon, the race is once again opening its arms to a new class of vessel.

The triathlon will welcome stand-up paddleboards for the first time this season as a trial run, Spector said. The boats, which have the user standing on something that resembles a surf board and using a paddle to get around, will not be eligible for the overall championship on Sept. 16 but will compete in a division limited to 25 participants.

"I'm reaching out to new areas," Spector said. "We'll see. Maybe people who do do paddleboards will try it and do a triathlon as opposed to a single race. I think this is a total growth area for all of us."

Growing the Josh is key. Her addition of kayaks saw the race go from 287 teams in 2001 to 473 in recent years. She said she's still hoping to crack the current limit of 500 teams.

"I think it is great to be inclusive," Spector said. "It adds something fresh to the race. I think every now and then you have to inject something that's new and fresh. ... If we hadn't added kayaking 10 years ago this would be a very small race."

Reaching out

A big part of Spector's plans to expand the field at the Josh has come through marketing. The race has embraced technology, revamping its website (www.joshbillings.com) this season.

Spector has also undertaken some online marketing efforts with the help of some funds from Lenox's Marketing and Events committee. She's taken out ads through active.com and bikereg.com. So far she's seeing some newcomers register.

"I'm getting more people from the Connecticut and Boston areas," she said. "It is working. How much it will end up working, I don't know. We'll see."

A good deal

A good deal

Speaking of marketing, the race has joined forces with local businesses to put together a coupon book which includes lodging, restaurant and shopping specials throughout Berkshire County.

Spector said each race participant will receive a coupon book and deals will be listed on the website. Lodging deals are already available there.

"I find it quite exciting because we've gotten a good response from area businesses," Spector said.

A month to go

Registrations are on pace with the last two years, Spector said. So far there are close to 200 teams registered. Prices go up after Aug. 31. Teams will save $20 if they register by the end of the month while ironperson entries increase by $10 on Sept. 1. Those 20 and under are always $40 and participants over 70 are free. Partic ipants can also save $5 off entries by going to either the Arcadian Shop in Lenox or Berkshire Bike and Board in Great Barrington to register. ... Starting in 2014, all that registration paperwork will be eliminated when Josh goes green. Entries will only be available online. ... Spector said she's still looking for volunteers for the race. Those interested can contact her at patty@joshbillings.com.