Forty-five years organizing anything is a massive endeavor, let alone a logistically challenging canoe and kayak race. That’s why Eppie’s Great Race, a Sacramento, Calif., tradition for 45 years, will come to a teary-eyed end this July…
Organizers recently announced that 2018 will be the finale for what is popularly regarded as the world’s oldest triathlon, which had a large paddling component.
Eppie Johnson, the owner of a chain of 24-hour coffee shops, launched the Eppie’s Great Race event in 1974 (when he was 45) as a fundraiser for Sacramento County Therapeutic Recreation Services, which provides activities for people with developmental disabilities. Since then, it’s raised $1.2 million for the organization. The decision to end the event was prompted by a decline in participation that began a few years before Eppie’s death in 2013, his son, Greg Johnson, tells the Sacramento Bee.
The triathlon – featuring a 5.82-mile run, a 12.5-mile bike ride and 6.10-mile paddle along the American River Parkway – typically drew up to 1,700 participants. Last year’s numbers dropped to 1,000. Johnson attributes the decline to competition from other events in the area.
“Instead of just letting it kind of fade away, we wanted it to go out with a bang,” Johnson tells the Sacramento Bee.
Online registration for the July 21 event has begun, at http://www.eppiesgreatrace.org/race-overview/, and Johnson encourages people to sign up early. Eppie’s Great Race Foundation will continue to sponsor Eppie’s Kids Duathlon, featuring running and bicycling, for children ages 3 to 13, in the fall.
Johnson adds the foundation also is set up to continue funding Sacramento County Therapeutic Recreation Services despite the demise of the fundraising triathlon.
“My dad always said that Eppie’s Great Race had woven its way into the fabric of the community,” Johnson says. “But the time has come for other events to weave their way into that fabric for a new generation.”