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A Race for All Ages: Triathlete Judy Rykken Solos in 80+ Age Class

By Cori Mattli, YWCA Strategic Communications Specialist
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Judy Rykken will turn 80 years old just before the next YWCA Women’s Triathlon and she’s ready to race. As the oldest participant, she’ll be in a class of her own for ages 80+. “I’m hoping I’ll win first in my age category!” she jokes.

Creating Her Own Training Opportunities

Judy started running when she was a 10-year-old kid just for fun. She remembers a time when there weren’t many opportunities for girls to get involved in sports. She says the only physical activities they offered in school for girls were dance and badminton. “In high school, they had creative dance, where they made up all these awful dances,” says Judy. Self-described as “competitive,” that wasn’t her style. Despite it all, Judy ran anyway.

Getting Hooked On Triathlons

Years later, after having three children, Judy and her husband began running races together to get back into shape, starting with the Hopkins Raspberry Run. After that, they started doing 5Ks, then half marathons, then marathons. Triathlons were the next obvious step. “You kind of get hooked on the things!” says Judy.

Largest Race for Ages 50+

Judy joined YWCA Women’s Triathlon the year it began in 2007 and has participated every year since. Athletics for women has progressed since Judy was a child, but there is still a high demand for women-centered races. In an era where triat­hlons all over the country are losing participants, YWCA Women’s Triathlon is one of the few that grows year after year. Judy says there’s a reason for that. “It’s the only race that’s got everybody, women old and young,” says Judy. “It’s just so nice because everyone’s welcome.” Last year, YWCA Women’s Triathlon had eight times the number of women over the age of 50 compared to other triathlons in Minnesota; and nearly 400 women ages 50+ registered to race.

Triathlon Access and Support

YWCA Women’s Triathlon’s goal is to make the event more accessible and achievable for women of all backgrounds, ages and body types. YWCA offers unparalleled support to get women there: a training plan, free clinics and training classes. It’s a noticeable difference to participants like Judy: “I want to see more older women out there… And they are coming!”

Why is YWCA Women’s Triathlon Unique?

Judy still races in other events, but she says YWCA Women’s Triathlon is unique. “It’s such a positive race that you almost feel like you’re lifted off the ground,” says Judy. She looks forward to YWCA Women’s Triathlon every year. Her advice for women of all ages? “Just get out there and do it!”

Learn more about YWCA Women’s Triathlon