Kate Kelly, 58
Kate Kelly has not missed a single race since the Tri for a Cure’s inception eight years ago.
And this year – like every year – the 58-year-old triathlete is looking forward to running, biking and swimming with hundreds of other women to continue the fight against cancer.
“I have always been a runner and a biker,” said Kelly, from Cumberland. “People who know me, family, friends, know that I am either on my bike or in my running shoes.”
Since 2009, Kelly has participated in all three legs of the Tri for a Cure, including swimming. Kelly has been biking and running since her early teens, and every year her swimming skills continue to improve.
“The second year, I said to myself, ‘I really enjoy this, it’s for a great cause,’ so I took swimming lessons,” Kelly said. “Swimming was the last piece that I had to conquer – and I conquered it.”
This year Kelly became a member of sheJAMs, which offers group training sessions for women triathletes, including biking, swimming, running and strength training.
“Everyone has a story and everyone is touched by cancer,” Kelly said. “Being an athlete is really important to me,” as well as “being able to share the experience and encourage people as they are training for the Tri.”
Kelly has also set up a personal fundraising page on the Maine Cancer Foundation website where she has raised more than $1,500, which guarantees her a spot in the 2016 Tri for a Cure and helps fund cancer research.
In October, Kelly helped launch “Stitch Out Cancer – Pink & White Scarf Project” in Maine, which aims to give more than 2,500 handknit scarves to Tri for a Cure participants as a way to thank them and raise awareness of the cause.
Kelly spoke with Maine Women about her experience participating in the all-women’s triathlon for the past seven years.
Q: How did you get involved with Tri for a Cure, and why?
A: Being an athlete, I was looking for a challenge. In 2007, I remember seeing an ad for the Tri for a Cure, and thought, this could be a great challenge. I could bike and run, but swimming was not my expertise. I thought, how can I do this Tri for a Cure triathlon? At the time, I worked in the Old Port and the office was mostly female. I walked into the office on a Monday morning and asked the staff who wanted to participate in this inaugural event that was going to take place in July. Through this request, I was able to build four teams to participate. In April of that year, my father-in-law passed away from brain cancer and our team name was “Team Kelly.” I was the runner on the team. Since the first Tri for a Cure, I have taken countless swimming lessons, have swum countless hours in the pool, lake and ocean, and can officially call myself a swimmer. My goal was to be able to do all three events, which after 2007, I have completed.
Q: What keeps you coming back?
A: Everything about the Tri keeps me coming back and entering my name in the lottery. It’s the training, the athletes that I meet along the way of my training, and the day of (the race); it’s the fundraising and knowing the money stays in Maine, and it’s the volunteers and spectators who cheer you on along the course. My inspiration to keep coming back also comes from my brother-in-law, Rob, who passed away in 2010 from colon cancer. I swim, bike and run in honor of him to the finish.
Q: What is your favorite part of the event?
A: The day of the Tri. The opening ceremony is very emotional for me. To see all of the athletes in their wetsuits standing on the hill surrounded by the beauty of Spring Point and all of the spectators ready to cheer us on. I also like seeing the cancer survivors in their pink caps taking center stage and everyone acknowledging their courage.
Q: Will you be back next year, as well?
A: For the last few years, the Tri has been a lottery. Both my husband and I hold our breath the day the names are pulled. I have been lucky enough to have my name drawn. This year, if you raise $1,500 you get a guaranteed entry into 2016. So, this has been my goal to raise $1,500. By Tri time, I will have raised that amount for my guaranteed entry. I would be very disappointed to not participate.
Q: How has the Tri changed since its inception?
A: The event has grown from 250 to 1,400 athletes. It has gotten more competitive in the actual event and fundraising for the Maine Cancer Foundation. More women want to do the Tri and are aware of the event and want to volunteer and spectate. More training groups are formed, i.e., sheJAMs, an all-round swimming, biking and running group.
Q: Do you have any advice?
A: Have fun, train and find your tribe to do that with. Thank the volunteers along the way.