The Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago has so much to offer for triathletes: pristine waters, hundreds of cycling routes, and unique trail-running experiences. But until recently, the only triathlon community existed in its capital city, Port of Spain. To find a triathlon club outside of the city (what the locals call “beyond the lighthouse”) was impossible until January 2019, when triathlon coach Riana Harrinauth set out to create a club unlike anything her country had ever seen.
“Triathlon is a young sport in our country. It’s viewed by many locals as impossible because we have a huge population of adults who cannot swim,” said triathlete Pauline Joseph. “[Harrinauth] wanted to make triathlon accessible to people in various parts of the country, not only to gain members but to grow the sport of triathlon.”
In particular, she saw the potential for growth in female participation. Most of the triathletes in Trinidad and Tobago are male, and the clubs follow suit. As one of only nine female triathlon coaches in the country, Harrinauth was passionate about introducing women to the sport. She recruited her cousin, Reshma Harrinauth, and training buddy, Joseph, to join her in the creation of a new club. With the clink of champagne glasses on New Year’s Day 2019, a new club was born. 868 Triathlon was not only for triathletes beyond the lighthouse, but the only multisport club in the country managed by a woman-only board of directors.
“We make triathlon accessible to people in various parts of the country, not only to gain members, but to grow the sport of triathlon as a whole,” explained Joseph. “We don’t focus on winning, but more on individual goals.”
868 Triathlon makes it a point to remove the intimidation factor for all new triathletes. This low-stakes, high-fun approach to triathlon is appealing to many, and members from other clubs often participate in 868 Triathlon events for fun and camaraderie. Women, in particular, have been drawn to 868 Triathlon as a community where everyone gets it.
“We’ve been able to maintain a safe space for women to feel comfortable to fail,” said Joseph. “It’s not easy trying to juggling being a mother, aunt or entrepreneur while trying to achieve goals that seem odd to the outside world. It helps when you have a support system that doesn’t require an explanation when the lady in the red dress visits.”
Their approach has driven the club’s exponential success, with more than 100 people participating in 868 Triathlon events to date and a Women for Tri Foundation Grant to expand their services.
“There is a myth that women don’t support each other,” said Joseph. “We don’t acknowledge that false narrative, but create our own truth: that women are badass and can achieve success together. We are proud of our team spirit. 868 Triathlon members are upbeat, positive persons even in the face of a global pandemic, always encouraging members to keep active, keep positive and keep healthy.”