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Clydesdale and Athena Spotlight: How Race Directors and Club Leaders Can Support Community

by Ashley Miller

Triathlon is for everyone, including athletes of all sizes and body composition. 

In addition to age group categories, there is also Athena and Clydesdale. These optional categories are weight-based. For women, Athena is 165 or greater. For men, Clydesdale is 220 or greater.

While triathletes of any size can feel self-conscious in spandex, it’s common for these athletes to feel out of place or like they don’t fit in, especially if they’re new to the sport.  

As a race director or multisport club leader, here are a few things you can do to make Athenas and Clydesdales feel welcome.

Offer Athena and Clydesdale categories

As a USA Triathlon sanctioned event, you should already be offering the category. If you aren’t, now is a good time to add it before race registrations pick up.
Offering the category also makes Athena and Clydesdale athletes feel welcome and lets them know they belong at your event. 

Athena and Clydesdale athletes have a wide variety of reasons for choosing this category over age group. Some of them include:

  • Feeling more comfortable, especially for newcomers.
  • Choosing to be compared against athletes of similar size.

  • Setting an example that larger athletes belong and are fierce competitors.

It’s a common misconception that Athena and Clydesdale are “beginner” categories. Or that these athletes aren’t as competitive as age group athletes. 
Triathletes come in all speeds, and this is no different for Athenas and Clydesdales. But they can be just as fast (and faster) than age groupers. Among them are overall race winners, national champions, Team USA members and IRONMAN finishers.

That’s why we recommend letting your Athena and Clydesdale athletes know they can qualify for Age Group National Championships. Qualification is based on the finish in the athlete's age group, not where the athlete is extended an award. See qualification standards for more information.  

Be mindful of shirt sizes, especially for women 

Inconsistent race shirt sizing can be frustrating for Athenas and age group women alike. 

If you offer gender-specific shirts:

  • Look for women’s sizing, as opposed to juniors. 

  • Look for styles that are offered beyond XL. Some brands offer sizes to 4XL.
  • Provide a size chart during the registration process.
  • There’s other swag to consider besides T-shirts, too. Custom visors, transition towels, race number belts and mesh swim bags are great alternatives. 

    Announce Athena and Clydesdale awards before age group 

    Athena and Clydesdale winners are often announced at the very end of awards when many have left. Consider announcing teams, then Athena and Clydesdale, and then age group. 

    Consider adding a designated last place finisher

    Whether you’re a back-of-the-packer or someone who just had bad luck with a mechanical on the bike, it can be embarrassing to finish last. If Athena and Clydesdale are the last waves of your race, chances are some of them may be your last finishers. 

    At events hosted by Team Magic in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee, there is a designated last place finisher who encourages whoever is bringing up the rear. Having a volunteer for the position can turn a potentially embarrassing moment into a positive and memorable one. 

    Choose club kits and wetsuits from brands offering a wide range of sizes

    Ordering custom kits for your club can be tricky. You have to consider minimums, styles, pricing and more. Many times, sizing gets overlooked. For Athenas, it can be disappointing to have to wear an ill-fitting men’s kit. 

    Consider choosing a brand that offers a wide range of truer-to-size men’s and women’s kits.

    If your club partners with a wetsuit brand, consider working with one that offers a wide range of sizes.

    Offer inclusive group training  

    Whether you’re a new triathlete or more experienced, being left behind during a group workout can be a turnoff. To make everyone feel welcome, offer no-drop rides and group runs for varying paces. 

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