It’s not that St. John’s Episcopal Church wasn’t well established, having been a part of South Salem for more than 250 years.
But when longtime rector, the Rev. Lynn Harrington, retired last year, Brian Stempel felt something needed to be done to bring attention to the church.
The result was St. John’s Church’s first Church Tavern Biathlon last year.
“I thought it was a good time to say, we’re still here,” said Stempel, a St. John’s Vestry member.
The initial event drew a field of 73 participants last September, and the second annual Church Tavern Biathlon is planned for Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 3, starting and ending at St. John’s Church on Spring Street.
The course consists of a seven-mile bike ride up Church Tavern Road and past Lake Truesdale, followed by a four-mile run up Church Tavern Road and back to the finish line, all on secondary roadways.
Participants can compete individually or as part of a two-person relay team.
This year’s event will add a Walkers division, featuring a four-mile walk that follows the same course as the runners.
The race starts at 9:30 a.m. with a dash from the church to the transition area across the street, where competitors will get on their bikes.
The race and the course’s largest hill are namesakes of a former St. John’s Church building that served, for a brief time, as a tavern in the years following the Revolutionary War.
The original church, the Church Tavern, was located near the intersection of Routes 35 and 123, just east of the driveway to Le Chateau restaurant. It was dismantled in 1795.
The St. John’s Church on Spring Street was consecrated in 1855.
To commemorate its tavern days, top finishers of the Church Tavern Biathlon receive engraved silver tankards. All finishers will receive medals, with additional prizes by age category.
A free barbecue will be held after the race in the churchyard, featuring a kids’ play area and live music by Quadrasaurus.
Proceeds from the event, which raised more than $1,500 last year, benefit three of St. John’s outreach programs: Carpenter’s Kids, supporting Tanzanian HIV/AIDS orphans; The Wounded Warrior Project, aiding injured service members; and The Community Center of Northern Westchester, helping those in need with food, clothing and services.
Stempel said the departure of Ms. Harrington, who had been rector for 23 years, was what inspired him to found the race.
“While we are in this transition period, our Vestry felt it was important to increase our church’s visibility while being of service to the community,” he said last year.
Stempel was familiar with the local roads from running on them, and figured a race would be a good way to promote the church.
At first, he thought about a triathlon, with the swimming portion held in Lake Truesdale, but felt the lake was too far from the church.
“I wanted to center this around the church,” he said.
Stempel got valuable help from Rob Cummings in choosing the course and learning the ins and outs of sponsoring a race.
Last year’s inaugural event was a pleasant surprise, he noted, with a turnout of 73.
“I figured if we could get 50 people out to do it, that would be great,” he said. “Everybody had a good time. We had a good mix. There were people from the church who said they hadn’t run in years. We had some people who absolutely crushed the course.”
While competition will be fierce among the top competitors, Stempel said the goal is keep the biathlon a “fun-first, small town, ‘grass roots’ race.”
To register online before the race, go here.
The pre-registration fees are $20 for walkers, $35 for individuals and $45 for relay teams. Day-of-the-race registration features an addition $5 fee per.
Notes: Another addition this year is the Race Angel Program. Through the generosity of sponsor Pacific Swim/Bike/Run, elite triathlete trainers will donate up to four hours of training time prior to the race and will ride by your side during the race to provide tips and encouragement for getting through the race.
The cost for Race Angel program is $100 and includes the $35 registration fee for the race.