Back in the 1980s, Paul and Kathleen King traveled throughout the Southeast participating in a then-new sport combining swimming, biking and running called "triathlon," but at the time, there were no triathlons in the Charleston area.

If you go

What: 24th annual Charleston Sprint Triathlon Championship and "send-off" party for the Paul and Kathleen King.

When: Triathlon starts at 7:15 a.m. Sunday. Post-race party follows.

Where: James Island County Park.

Cost: The fee for the triathlon is $50 for Charleston County residents and $60 for non-residents.

Details: The triathlon feature a 600-yard swim, a 12-mile bike and 5K run. Spectators are welcome. The post-race party features live music by the Dunder Chiefs, along with a breakfast buffet from Black Bean Company, a champagne toast, and special guest speakers.


So in 1991 Paul created one - the Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series - and held it at James Island County Park.

For the past quarter century, the Kings along their children, Amelia and Skylar, poured their energies into putting on three to five races, which became the hallmark endurance sports event of summer in the Lowcountry.

The race became, and remains, popular because it was both "do-able," even for those who were challenged by open water swimming, and featured a warm, welcoming atmosphere, thanks to the personal touches and calm natures of the Kings.

The series not only helped launch elite athletes, such as professional triathlete Lauren Goss and recent USA Triathlon Junior Olympic Champion Brent Demarest, and inspired others to take on more challenging Ironman events, but it also been a place for people - amputees, quadriplegics, cancer survivors and other overcoming life obstacles - to prove something to themselves.

But with Kings reaching the age of retirement and their children grown, it was time to move on.

This Sunday's event is the King's last, the fifth of five races in 24th year of the series, and it certainly will be filled with more hugs, along with a few tears, than usual.

To show appreciation for years of dedication, the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission - which has taken over the entire responsibility of the race - will host a "send-off" party after Sunday's race

The party will feature live music by the Dunder Chiefs, a breakfast buffet from Black Bean Company, a champagne toast and guest speakers. The commission also will be hoisting an 1,800-square-foot tent in the event of rain.

The hand-off of the event from the Kings to the commission has been in the works for three years, with full support from commission executive director Tom O'Rourke.

"We at CCPRC are honored to be chosen by Paul and Kathleen as the adoptive parents of the CSTS," said O'Rourke. "In Charleston there truly are only a few signature sporting events in this community. CSTS is arguably right there with the best of the best."

Paul King says the series has evolved along with the sport since 1991.

"Back then, no one had any idea how long this new sport might last," said King. "To think in 1991, when the first season of the Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series was held, that the sport of triathlon would gain the popularity and standing it has around the world a quarter of a century later would not have been part of the discussion."

King adds that despite the years that have passed he is still amazed how it continues to generate excitement and produce stories and performances that keep the event "fresh and inspirational."

With knowledge that this series was the King's last, many regular participants have been bidding adieu all summer.

"Our family has been humbled by the gratitude and appreciation that both spectators and participants have shared with us," said King.

"Our inspiration and strength has been drawn from the events themselves. To be of service to others by committing ourselves to an athletic event is a gift and something that our family values at the highest level."

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.