If you want to know how to pull off a public event in these trying times, ask Muna Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a certified race director and co-owner of Personal Best Racing (PBR) in Knoxville. PBR is hosting the K-Town on the River triathlon this Saturday, Aug. 22, with sprint and Olympic distance divisions.
The swim, bike then run competition kicks off at 7 a.m. with the sprinters hitting the water at Suttree’s Landing. The Olympic division starts at 7:30 a.m. from Island Home. The biking and running segments will traverse through South Knoxville, including the Will Skelton greenway. Though this weekend’s event is curtailed in terms of the numbers (capped at 100, 50 for each event), Rodriguez is glad to see it come to fruition after being postponed from May.
“I’m happy right now because we get to have it,” Rodriguez said, but noted it’s a downer not to have the after-party at the end of the races. “I wrote like a 5-page essay to the city of Knoxville and the Board of Health outlining our plan so we could get permission. I’m getting emails from all over the country asking how did we do this?”
She said PBR has had great success with other events they’ve hosted over the summer despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and that contact tracing has shown no infections stemming from them. Protocols include temperature checks, health screenings, masks when not competing, social distancing, no gathering in large groups, hand sanitizer, providing masks if necessary, and no spectators in their controlled areas. “Obviously, there’s nothing we can do about anyone who chooses to stand on a sidewalk and watch.”
Rodriguez holds great admiration for the riverfront scenes in Nashville and Chattanooga and wants to see Knoxville get on par with those cities. “I love Knoxville, I love downtown, I love the riverfront. There is so much more potential here,” she said. “Events like these encourage travel to the region, increase commerce and boost the economy. Plus, there’s a lot of talent in this region, and we want to match that talent with races here.”
Nurturing young talent is close to Rodriguez’s heart, as she is the kids running chair with the Knoxville Track Club. The Covid situation has unfortunately postponed much of the KTC calendar this summer, but she said the goal is to start working more kids’ events in tandem with adults. She said runners have hosted a few races through PBR this summer. It’s important to her that children see ways to get and stay active.
“The reality is, we can’t save the world doing this. We can’t make this (Covid) go away,” Rodriguez said. “What we can do is find safe ways to keep doing what we do, to make sure our community has these outlets for their physical and mental health.”
A triathlete herself, Rodriguez will not be competing this weekend, as being a competitor and organizer don’t mix. “I’ll be doing one of the things I do best,” she said with a laugh, “boss other people around.” The 1995 graduate of Halls High School was born and raised in the Halls community and is an accountant with LHP Capital LLC.
Beth Kinnane is a freelance writer and thoroughbred bloodstock agent.