Now in its third year, the Tri for a Cure, originally conceived as an alternative to a golf tournament, has shattered all fundraising expectations, raising more than $400,000 for the Maine Cancer Foundation in its first two years.
On Aug. 15, the event comes back to the Southern Maine Community College campus in South Portland, bringing hundreds of athletes and spectators to town, all in the name of finding a cure for cancer.
Last year, more than 700 women – many of them first-time triathletes – participated in the event, and that number has grown to 950 this year as organizers hope to raise $600,000.
Last year, Anne Wilkinson of Falmouth, a cancer survivor who finished near the top in the first event, accomplished her goal of winning the event – which begins with a 1/3-mile swim, moves to a 15-mile bike ride and concludes with a 3-mile run – in a time of 1:13:15.
Julie Marchese, the race director, said that while every triathlon is different, the Tri for a Cure course was laid out with beginners in mind.
“It’s designed to be somewhat difficult,” she said. “But it’s designed to be for first-time triathletes.”
This year’s race starts at 2 p.m. At that time, the athletes will hit the water (which is expected to be a chilly 62 degrees) at the beach at Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and negotiate a counterclockwise, triangular swim that finishes on the same beach.
Marchese said for a lot of women taking part in their first time triathlon the open ocean swim is the most daunting leg of the event. She said most first-time triathletes do their swim leg in a pool or a lake, which is vastly different from the cold ocean water off South Portland. “That’s the first huge hurdle that most women have to get over,” she said.
Once out of the water, athletes will then peel off their wetsuits, jump on their bikes and pedal out on a loop through the streets of South Portland and Cape Elizabeth.
What sets the Tri for a Cure’s bike segment apart from other triathlons is, at 15 miles, the course is longer than the usual 12-mile distance for similar events. Marchese explained that the reason for
the longer course was simply rider safety. Taking advice from local officials, Marchese said, race organizers laid out a slightly longer course that was safer for the bikes on the course.
While the course is relatively flat, Marchese said, it’s still a tough ride. “For most of these women, the 15-mile bike ride is a challenge,” she said.
Returning back to Southern Maine Community College, the athletes then will run from Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse to Bug Light. The path heads through Bug Light Park, and take athletes within inches of the lighthouse before turning back toward the finish. A connector path will lead athletes to the perimeter of the campus. Athletes will meet up with an oceanfront path that will provide ocean views on their way to the finish.
“The running course is probably one of the most scenic runs in the state of Maine,” Marchese said. “It’s really beautiful going through Bug Light.”
Organizers also offer a duathlon for those athletes who want to participate, but do not want to swim. The race, which will start just after the swimmers take to the water, begins with a 1.5-mile run in place of the swim and then will continue with the full 15-mile bike course and the final 3-mile run.
While the athletes will have some amazing ocean views to enjoy as they make their way through the course, the majority of people in the area will be on hand to watch the athletes.
According to race organizers, there are several vantage points around the course that provide the best views of all the action.
When the athletes are in the water, the swimming portion of the race is best viewed on top of the old bunker that can be accessed by the Willard Beach Walkway and Bunker Road. Race organizers said that vantage point will provide a good view of the water, Spring Point lighthouse and the starting line.
One overlooked part of the race is the transition area. This is where the athletes make the switch from swimming to biking and biking to running, and the action in the transition area can be fast and furious as athletes try to get back out on the course as fast as possible. Spectators can watch the transitions from a spot in front of Southern Maine Community College’s Computer and Electronic building.
Spectators can also go to the college’s athletic fields at Fort Road to watch the bikers head out and return and stay there to watch the runners head out onto the course. The run can be viewed from Benjamin Pickett Drive, as well.
Parking will be available on a first-come basis in the Southern Maine Community College parking lots. Spectators are advised to arrive early, as Campus Center Drive will be closed to all vehicle and foot traffic at 1 p.m. and Fort, Slocum and Adams roads from Benjamin Pickett Drive to the water will be closed, as well.
Kids get their chance to swim and run
The Maine Cancer Foundation’s Tri for a Cure triathlon weekend will contain something for everybody. The main event is, of course, the triathlon, which starts and finishes on the campus of Southern Maine Community College in South Portland on the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 15.
But, the day before the triathlon, Saturday, Aug. 14, kids can do their part to help find a cure for cancer by participating in the first Tri for a Cure Aqua/Run.
The race is a smaller-scale version of the triathlon, with a 100-yard swim and a 1-mile run. There will be no bike stage in this race.
The race is open to kids from ages 10-15 and will start at 11 a.m. at the Tri for a Cure swim starting line at Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse. The kids will swim parallel to the shore in waist-deep ocean water for approximately 100 yards. Then they will transition into their sneakers and run approximately 1 mile along the shore to the Tri for a Cure finish line. Children taking part in the race must have a parent or guardian volunteer accompany them to the event.
The swimmers will be broken up into four waves: boys age 10-12, girls age 10-12, boys age 13-15 and girls age 13-15. A maximum of 150 children will be accepted into the race. Registration is $35 per child and it will include a USA Triathlon membership. If space is available, kids can register on the day of the race, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Each child registered for the race – online registration at www.mainetriforacure.org closes Aug. 11 – will receive a T-shirt and a finisher’s medal. While the race will not be timed, there will be awards for the top three boys and girls in each age group.
Like the adults entered in the triathlon, kids taking part in the Aqua/Run are also encouraged to raise money for the Maine Cancer Foundation. Every child who raises at least $25 prior to the event will win a special prize and there will be a special award for the top fundraiser. All donations must be turned in by 9:30 a.m. on the day of the event; no pledges are allowed.
For more information, visit www.mainetriforacure.org.
A Closer Look
Third annual Tri for a Cure women’s triathlon
To benefit the Maine Cancer Foundation
Sunday, Aug. 15, 2 p.m.
Southern Maine Community College, South Portland
Swim 1/3 mile; bike 15 miles;
run 3 miles.
Friends, family members and/or spectators may escort an athlete to transition via Campus Center Drive until 1 p.m., at which point Campus Center Drive will close to all foot traffic and spectators will be asked to access the bunker/swim down the Athletic Field and Willard Beach Path. No spectators will be allowed on Fort, Slocum and Adams roads, from Benjamin Pickett Drive to the water.
For more information, see www.mainetriforacure.org.