In normal circumstances the Nahant Beach Triathlon (NBT) would have celebrated its 40th anniversary with an awards gathering following the final event of the season last Thursday night.
The weekly competitors from Lynn and other communities would have sung the praises of legendary NBT Director Bob Levine at such a celebration and the tributes to the 73-year-old Levine would have lasted for an hour, at least.
But due to the coronavirus, the NBT had to follow social distancing guidelines and celebrate the end of its 40th season under Levine’s direction in low-key fashion.
Levine, a licensed electrician who works at General Electric in Lynn, is truly a pioneer in the world of triathlons, which are grueling competitions that test the endurance of its competitors, known as triathletes. In the Nahant version, competitors start with a quarter-mile swim, followed by a 5-mile, bicycle ride, and 3-mile run.
While Levine remains the face of the Nahant Beach Triathlon, he humbly credits Tom Carmody, Paul Hennessey, and Jerry Powers for helping to launch the event and keep the tradition alive for four decades.
What was the inspiration to start a triathlon on the North Shore 40 years ago?
“The running boon was coming back and people needed exercise,” said Levine, who attended Lynn Trade. “We used to draw 150 people for our triathlons. Now it’s about 50 people each week from the last Thursday in May to the first Thursday in October.”
Levine is known for his generosity to the competitors. The NBT is free of charge for the trithletes.
“Bob supplies the awards and he donates the refreshments for each race,” said Jerry Powers, who assists at the event along with Paul Hennessey and Mike Fitzgerald. “Bob’s the best.”
NBT regulars, including world-class triathlete Warren MacPhail of Winthrop, say Levine is unmatched in his organizational skills and race directing.
“We’ve had competitors in the Nahant Beach Triathlon who have gone on to compete in national and world championships,” said MacPhail. “Bob does a tremendous job. We’re fortunate to have such an outstanding triathlon being held in the area. Our summers wouldn’t be the same without coming to Nahant each week and seeing Bob Levine running the show.”
Lynn resident Freddi Triback has competed in the Nahant Beach Triathlon for the past two years. A former runner at Binghamton University in New York, Triback likes the mulit-level, competitive aspect of the Nahant Beach Triathlon.
“This event has all levels of triathletes, so whether you’re a beginner or an elite, everybody’s welcome,” said Triback.
Brian Walfield, a graduate of Northeast Regional, is an ultra-runner who competes in 50-mile races, but he also enjoys the Nahant Beach Triathlon. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great tradition on Thursday nights,” said Walfield. “Bob Levine does a great job.”
Levine, who stays active as a runner, said he has tremendous respect for triathletes. “I admire their dedication and commitment to physical fitness. They’re all in great shape.”
Levine has pledged to keep the NBT going for many years into the future.
“I made promises years ago to Fred Brown, Tom Supple, and Jock Semple that I’d keep it going for as long as possible,” said Levine. “I hope to be doing this for many years to come, maybe in to my 100s.”
Levine is already looking ahead to the 2021 Nahant Beach Triathlon season.
“We’ll be here for at least another 40 years – maybe into my 100s,” said Levine.