Josh Billings RunAground 2019: Comradery keeps competitors coming back for more
STOCKBRIDGE — It is much more than a triathlon — it is an integral part of Berkshire County history.
The 27 miles on bike, five miles in canoe, paddle board or kayak, and six mile run may seem daunting. Those who participate in the Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon will tell you the opposite.
"I don't look at is as training," said Bill Farrell. "The Josh is a beautiful part of the lifestyle because you're doing things you love to do."
Farrell, who was part of a team that won the race in 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1982, did not participate for over 25 years. However, the 70-year old came back four years ago and competes as an Iron Man, or someone who does each leg of the Triathlon.
"Most of the people competing weren't alive when I did my first race — it is a testament to people like [Race Director] Patty Spector," Farrell said. "I don't see it as a tough or competitive thing, but something you do like going to Tanglewood to listen to a concert, It is five hours of enjoying the beautiful scenery and the commencement of Autumn. It's really important and I put it with James Taylor performing on the fourth of July."
For Jayne's Guys, a group that has a combined 47 years of experience racing in the triathlon, the race is the perfect balance of competition and comradery.
"You catch the spirit of the race," said Dave Klausmeyer, who first raced in 1984 and is a member of the team. "I was working at [the former] Mead Specialty Paper and a group of employees formed a team. It is a wonderful gathering. We appreciate how many people are putting in the time do it."
The 80-year old Klausmeyer, along with Farrell, both view the Josh as a great celebration of a healthy life style. Even if missing the race for years at a time, competitors returning to the Triathlon remember the magic of that Sunday morning in September.
"What brought me back was the idea of the nostalgia," Bill Ruhl, an avid cyclist who now lives in New Jersey said. "I first competed back in 1981 and it was always a blast. The memory that came back was the vibe of the race and the beauty of the Berkshires. It is a manageable race. It is a great way for folks to show themselves they can do things they did 30 years ago."
"You have a body and you need to respect it," Farrell added. "I'm thankful for 70-year old group and hope to encourage people in there 70s and 80s to celebrate being an athlete with a clean life."
The race, much like the person it was named after, combines the perfect amount of intensity and goodwill.
"You have the front runners but mostly you're out here to have a good time," Ruhl explained. "It is one of those things where even if you don't know anyone, you just start talking to people."
"I paddle 30-35 times a year, but this is the only race I do because of the comradery," Klausmeyer said. "Many of us are there to have fun. As Billings said, 'to finish is to win.'"
They may not be gold or silver, but everyone who competes in the Josh Billings RunAground comes out with a trophy one way or another with a celebration at Tanglewood once the race is completed.
"I get through that last quarter-mile from the smell of the papers, onions and sausages," Farrell joked. "I'll probably compete in The Josh until the day after my funeral."
Jake Mendel can be reached at email@example.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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