In year 8, raising the bar

In year 8, raising the bar

The Maine Cancer Foundation is hoping to raise at least $1.5 million in donations as part of the eighth annual Tri for a Cure triathlon, set for Sunday, July 26, in South Portland.

Last year’s event raked in more than $1.4 million.

“We decided to raise the bar and see if we can hit the magic $1.5 million mark,” said the foundation’s marketing and communications director, Cullen McGough. “It will take some work, but we think we can do it.”

Since the Tri for a Cure’s inception in 2008, the event – the largest cancer-fighting fundraiser in the state – has collected $6.5 million in cash and in-kind donations, including more than $600,000 so far this year to fund cancer research, education and support programs.

“We are always and forever grateful and impressed by the women who make this event possible,” said McGough. “The Tri for a Cure has a significant impact on the fight against cancer here in Maine.”

Maine’s only all-women triathlon, based at Southern Maine Community College, attracts more than 1,000 women each year to participate in a USAT-sanctioned one-third-mile swim, a 15-mile bike ride, and a 3-mile run.

According to Tri for a Cure’s founder and race director, Julie Marchese, except for some minor changes to the relay transition areas, the 2015 course will be the same as last year, beginning at 7:30 a.m.

The course begins with the triathletes plunging into the ocean, off the beach at Spring Point Ledge Light, for a counterclockwise triangular swim in a protected ocean cove, finishing on the same beach.

Swimmers will then come to a mini-transition area where they will strip off their wetsuits before lacing up their running shoes for a short run to the bike transition area, where they will hop on their bikes for a 15-mile ride.

This year, women will be required to have their bicycles inspected before entering the race, Marchese said, because bikes have been known to break down on race day.

During the biking portion of the race, participants will travel south down Fort Road to Preble Street and continue to Shore Road past Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth until they reach Route 77.

Bikers will pass Crescent Beach and continue on Route 77 and Sawyer Street, until it crosses Cottage Road in South Portland and circles back to Preble Street, where participants will prepare for the 3-mile run.

The run portion of the race, as in previous years, will begin at Southern Maine Community College. Runners will take a left at McKernan Drive and a right down Fort Road and follow the course out of the campus. They will then take a left on Broadway, then a right onto Preble Street Extension, a right on Green Belt Trail and down Madison Street and into Bug Light Park where they will loop around.

From Madison Street, runners will then take a left onto Breakwater and go back across Broadway to the college campus. From there, runners will take a U-turn to Shoreway Lane where they will cross the finish line.

Marchese said that of the 1,350 triathletes, nearly 500 women will participate in their first Tri for a Cure. She also estimated that about 700 women are participating in all three legs of the race.

“It’s not the same people doing the race over and over,” Marchese said. “There is always somebody new that is coming to try the challenge for the first time, which is awesome.”

According to Marchese, 10 to 15 percent of the triathletes on race day are cancer survivors, though all participants are touched by cancer in some way, and want to be a part of something bigger.

In addition to the race, sheJAMs, a training group that Marchese founded in 2010 with a group of friends, continues to gain steam. As of this year, there are more than 200 members, including 85 people in the triathlon program, Marchese said.

“About 50 percent (of those women) have never done a triathlon before,” she said. “If you’re a newbie, and you want to learn how to do a triathlon, we teach you everything you need to know.”

In the eighth year of the Tri for a Cure, Marchese said, “we are satisfied with what we have. We just want to keep Maine involved and loving it. Each year we just try to keep having an amazing race and incredible experience.”

Tri for a Cure “is a real tribute to women. It’s not necessarily just a triathlon,” said Marchese. “It’s a celebration of women fighting for a cause, and all coming together to kick cancer’s butt. We hope that one day we find a cure in one of those dollars.”

Joni Hewitt, left, of Cape Elizabeth, and Winnie Smith of Newburyport, Mass., joyfully share the finish of the 2014 Tri for a Cure triathlon. Photo courtesy of the Maine Cancer Foundation

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