Panama City Beach, FL--The Gulf Coast Triathlon is once again attracting athletes from all over the country and the southeast in particular. They are coming here to take part in what will be the 30th edition of the GCT. Hard for those who have been involved with it over the years the event is three decades old!
"Well especially when you think of the people who keep coming back." says Race Director Shelley Bramblett. "You know when they're here and you see the shirts from so many years, and you see the same volunteers, it's like old home week for everybody. So 18 years on my part but think about everybody who's been here even longer than me."
Panama City Beach Fire Chief John Daly is one such person. John raced in the first GCT in 1983, and then 19 more.
He was also part of the race committee and says an idea that really gave the fledgling event a boost, founder Melvin Lauderdale idea to fly in the best triathletes of that time, in for the first few races.
"You know Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Scott Molina. They're all from California and he brought them in here and immediately gave
credibility to the race. And the next few years it grew proportionally as the sport grew.
And so the race grew from 160 competitors in '83 to at times close to 2-thousand. That means over the years, the Gulf Coast Triathlon has exposed Panama City Beach and the surrounding areas, says Daly, to tens of thousands.
"We had people from around the world in the early days, come to this race however they could travel to get here. And I think that says a lot that they would never be in Northwest Florida otherwise. It really gave them a reason to be here and come see the area."
John says even though, in three decades those who manage the race have changed, the event itself has never suffered.
"What's really amazing is where it's been and even with all the changes in personnel and people that the integrity of the race is here and it hasn't dwindled, it's increased. The people, Shelley and the staff that are running the race are just doing a great job. It's obvious, you're having the athletes show up year after year."
And John Daly is back in the event, as part of a relay team, we wish him and his mates a good race. Again they hit the water in waves starting at 6:15.