By land and river, racers in the Morning Rotary Driathlon compete for fun and to raise money

For 74-year-old Paul Westberg, the Bay City Morning Rotary Driathlon is a fun way to make the world a better place.

Westberg and partner Melanie Bowie compete as Team Runamok and have competed in 10 driathlons and won their age division in about half of them.

A driathlon is a relay race that calls for participants to bike, run, and kayak or canoe. A traditional triathlon includes biking, running, and swimming.

Westberg and Bowie have competed in the fundraising Bay City driathlon multiple times.

“We’ve always placed in the top three in our age category,” says Westberg, who will be 75 soon, but “That’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is you get down there and you get done and you say – ‘Man that was fun!’ ”

The Bay City event supports local causes, and that’s also important to Westberg. He says he does an average of a half dozen events a year and pays attention to where the money goes for each event.

“If it’s a good cause, it doesn’t matter what the cause is as long as it helps people and is not a profit seeking for individuals or businesses.”

It takes an entire team of people to set up and tear down the annual fundraising Bay City Morning Rotary Driathlon.(Photo courtesy of the Bay City Morning Rotary Club)Westberg, who is from Oscoda, says the Bay City event is special.

“It’s more fun than just about any other event I go to, and once I started, I couldn’t quit.”

Westberg plans to join the 11th annual event on Sun., Sept. 18.

John Shankool, one of the founders of the event, agrees that the race is a fun event, whether people like to compete or just have a good time.

For the second time, the event launches from Castaways in Bangor Township with a 5-kilometer kayak/canoe paddle. Participants also ride bikes for 20 kilometers and run for another 5 kilometers, passing through Bangor Township and near the Bay City State Park.

Race committee member Amber Phillips says participants will bring their own bikes, and many have their own kayaks, but not having a boat is no reason to stay out of the race. “We also have a vendor who provides them,” she says.

Whether or not you provide your own equipment, the race is an opportunity to support Rotary programs. Locally, the Rotary supports literacy programs, including Little Free Libraries, reading programs, books for kindergarten libraries, and scholarships for graduating high school seniors.

Volunteers helped people sign up for the annual Bay City Morning Rotary Driathlon in 2014. (Photo courtesy of the Bay City Morning Rotary Club)“We always have our big polio mission,” Phillips adds. “Rotary has the fight against polio as it’s big mission, but we do a lot of things locally.”

There was a case of polio reported recently in New York. “You just take for granted that’s not still happening, but it is still happening,” Phillips says.

Phillips adds Rotary focuses on making sure clean water and vaccines are available internationally.

“Vaccinations are our biggest thing with Rotary,” says Shankool.

If you want to join the event, there’s still time. Amber Phillips, one of the race organizers, says she expects a good turnout this year. The race caps participation at about 200 teams, but Phillips says there is still time to register.

“It’s a healthy event, exposes people to healthy living, something different and new. Whether they’re doing it or coming out and watching it, it resonates with people,” says Shankool, who says despite the work it takes to put on, it is a lot of fun.

To sign-up or learn more about the race go to or Registering as a relay team is encouraged, but not necessary. Participants can also register as individuals.