Door County Goes the Distance

For many years Door County has been well known for things like cherries, pancakes, fish boils and sunsets. It is an extremely popular choice for families on vacation looking to relax, indulge, and enjoy some natural beauty. However, over the last few years, Door County has become a Mecca of sorts for a group of people on the opposite side of the tourist spectrum: the extreme athlete.

Door County’s roads, trails and beaches play host to a growing number of outdoor athletic events each year, including the Door County Triathlon, Half Marathon, the Century Ride (100-mile bike ride), and the Fall 50 (50-mile run). Feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive for all events and reflects the growing interest in Door County as a playing field for these activities.

The Door County Half Marathon was held for the first time May 3 of this year in Peninsula State Park, with just under 600 participants in the half marathon and 5k (held the same day). Brian Fitzgerald, who organized the event, feels strongly that next year’s participation will increase greatly.

“The course really stands out, it’s very scenic,” he said, “and this is such a hospitable community. Door County has the perfect combination for these types of events.”

The Door County Triathlon will be held for the fourth year on July 20. In 2005 it reached only half of its 1000-participant capacity; but, last year registration was closed and the wait list full two weeks before the event, and this year the event filled two months before race day.

This year the Olympic distance course has been removed, and a Half-Ironman has been added in its place (the sprint distance remains the same). Race coordinator Sean Ryan explained that the decision to make the change was hard, but ultimately a good one for many reasons.

“The increases we saw in participation over the first few years was mainly in the sprint distance,” he said. “The Olympic distance participation grew as well but not that much. Because it’s only a middle distance, people won’t travel very far to do it. The solution was to go to an even less achievable distance because people will travel farther, especially if the event has a good reputation,” and this triathlon certainly does. With a course that begins and ends in Murphy Park in Egg Harbor, participants and spectators are treated to some of Door County’s most breathtaking scenery along Bay Shore Drive.

Other benefits of extending to the Half-Ironman distance are that it broadens the geographic spectrum of the event. Instead of staying in and around Egg Harbor, the course takes participants to Sturgeon Bay – right down 3rd Ave. – and Sevastopol. It also means that people who come for it will more than likely stay longer, which will be more lucrative for the community at large. “The average number of hotel rooms and nights of stay is longer for longer courses,” Ryan said.

Fitzgerald said the half marathon introduced the peninsula to new visitors.

“It really brought a lot of people who had never even been to Door County, but now they’ll come back at other times.”

People from all over are starting to realize how much Door County has to offer, and their presence gives a lot back to the community.

“When families come up to watch Mom or Dad do the triathlon,” Ryan said, “they end up vacationing for a week, going out to eat, shopping…it really has a profound impact on businesses all over.”

Both the Door County Triathlon and Door County Half Marathon have met with rave reviews as people find the events to be well organized, efficient, well staffed, and fun for everyone involved.

Furthermore, the courses the events are run on – through beautiful parks and beaches and along country roads – are the kind competitors crave. Door County is paradise for those who love outdoor sports, and events like these make sure that it gets the recognition it deserves.