New course, same Josh Billings triathlon: Despite course chaos, 42nd RunAground ready to go for Sunday

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If there is one thing that Patty Spector can guarantee right now, it is that the 42nd edition of the Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon will be a memorable one.

The race, which returns to southern Berkshire County on Sunday, needed a new course last weekend after a toxic algae bloom at Stockbridge Bowl ruled out the typical venue for the paddling portion of the triathlon.

Now, after countless hours of organizing, reorganizing then organizing even more, Spector and her committee have a course, and are ready to host a race.

"It's been absolutely unbelievable busy, hectic, but the really good thing about it is that everyone has been willing to help us and be cooperative and going out of their way to help us," Spector said by phone on Thursday night."

The Josh will get underway at 9:30 a.m., in its traditional starting line at the Price Chopper in Great Barrington. From there, bikers will head to West Stockbridge on the usual route. Once in West Stockbridge, riders will turn left and go up Route 41, then turn right onto Summit Road. At the end of Summit Road, bikers will turn onto Swamp Road, then left onto Boys Club Road. At the end of the road bikers will turn left again, and the gravel road will take riders down to the transition area for the paddlers. The bike leg is approximately 24 miles.

The paddle leg starts with a 1/3-mile run/walk/jog to Richmond Beach. The paddle is 2 1/2 times around the lake, ending at Camp Russell. Runners will be waiting for the paddlers at the camp. The paddle is approximately five miles.

Runners will take the handoff at Camp Russell, then run up to Swamp Road. Next is a left down East Road, then a left on Lenox Road and up and over Lenox Mountain to the finish at Tanglewood. The running course is 6 1/2 miles.

During the race, there will be road closures. Per Spector: Lenox Mountain Road will be closed from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Summit Road will be closed from 9:45 a.m. to noon; Boys Club Road will be closed at 9 a.m.

Residents of Richmond Pond are asked to remain at home from 10 a.m. to 11:30 for the safety of the bikers.

Boats have to be at the boat launch by 8:30 in the morning, and runners have to be at Camp Russell by 9. Paddlers that are driving to Richmond Pond are asked to arrive by 7:30. After 7:30, no cars will be allowed down the road from drop off, and paddlers will have to park at Camp Russell and then paddle across the pond to the town beach.

In regards to spectators, a race packet by the committee states: "No spectators are allowed at the Town Beach or the Boat Ramp. No spectators at Camp Russell unless you need to drive a paddler or runner to the race. There is minimal parking at the camp and we need the spaces for the paddlers and runners."

The course alterations have forced the Josh committee into working long hours this week to prepare for the race. Spector, though, said that the process has been made easy by those she has to deal with.

"We are so grateful to the town of Richmond and the residents of Richmond Pond," Spector said. "Anywhere from the town administrator, to the DPW, to the fire chief, Richmond has been absolutely amazing."

The Allen Heights Veterinary team is back to defend its title again. The team, which has won six of the last seven RunAgrounds, will look slightly different this year, however, as paddlers Tom Keefe and Ben Pigott are switching to a canoe this year, as opposed to a kayak.

Defending Ironperson champion Kent Lemme is also back in the field and will look to defend his title again.

Outside of the course alterations, a lot of the buildup remains the same from years prior. Race registration will be at the Arcadian Shop on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. From 5 p.m. to 7:30, there will be a free spaghetti dinner for racers and their families at Bousquet in Pittsfield.

Race proceeds this year are being donated to the Berkshire United Way.

Ironpeople competing on Sunday will have a meeting with Kent Lemme on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Arcadian Shop. Because of the course changes, all Ironpeople competing are encouraged to attend the informational session.

There will be a kids race at Tanglewood at the conclusion of the Josh. Registration for the kids race will take place at the Arcadian Shop on Saturday.


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