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Forty years ago, San Diegans Jack Johnstone and Don Shanahan had a wacky idea. They were both runners but wanted to mix things up by adding another sport to a running race.
“We had a number of events in town. Two were fairly popular run-swims,” Shanahan, now 72, said. “So I got to thinking, well, it would be really fun to put a bike on the back end of this.”
He said Johnstone had a slightly different idea.
“Jack was a member of the (San Diego Track Club), he called up and wanted to put on a swim-run,” Shanahan said. “They said, ‘Well, Shanahan has this crazy idea. Why don’t you talk to him?’ So Jack called me and we put it on.”
They combined their ideas and held the first-ever running, biking and swimming race on Sept. 25, 1974, in Mission Bay. Shanahan said they called it the “triathlon” because swim-run events were already called biathlons.
“It was not well thought out,” he said. “We just did it.”
Their course was a bit different from modern triathlons. Instead of starting with a swim, the 46 participants first ran a three-mile loop toward SeaWorld, then biked twice around Fiesta Island for a total of five miles.
“They came off the bikes, into the dirt, took off the shoes, ran into the water,” Shanahan said.
Read more: Kpbs.org