The seventh annual Tri for a Cure triathlon set for Sunday, July 20, has attracted hundreds of new athletes, and this year aims to raise $1.25 million or more for the Maine Cancer Foundation to fight cancer in Maine.
So far this year, the Maine Cancer Foundation has collected more than $700,000 from the Tri for a Cure – the largest cancer-fighting fundraiser in the state – to fund cancer research, education and support programs, and donations keep coming in, according to Cullen McGough, marketing and communications director for the Maine Cancer Foundation.
Last year, the Tri for a Cure raked in $1,368,428 for the Maine Cancer Foundation, including in-kind donations.
To date, Tri for a Cure has raised a total of about $6.2 million in cash and in-kind donations since its inception in 2008, said McGough.
Each year, 900-1,000 women gather in South Portland to swim, bike and run along the shores of South Portland and Cape Elizabeth in Maine’s only all-women triathlon. And this year is expected to be no different, says Tri for a Cure founder Julie Marchese.
Like every year, “it’s a very powerful day,” she said. “Wherever you are, there are people cheering for you. It’s great community awareness.”
Tri for a Cure begins at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland at 7:30 a.m. and consists of a USAT-sanctioned one-third-mile swim, a 15-mile bike ride and a 3-mile run. The course is the same as last year’s, Marchese said, but the number of participants is constantly growing.
“We have 600 new people doing the race for the first time,” Marchese said. “That’s pretty high, considering we are seven years in.”
The 2014 course begins with the triathletes plunging into the ocean off the beach at Spring Point Ledge Light. Swimmers will do a counterclockwise triangular swim in a protected ocean cove, finishing on the same beach.
A mini-transition area will be set up for athletes to strip off their wetsuits and lace up their running shoes for a short run to the bike transition area. Participants will then hop on their bikes for a 15-mile ride south down Fort Road to Preble Street, continuing to Shore Road and past Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth.
From there, bikers will continue on Shore Road until it reaches Route 77 and pass Crescent Beach. The remainder of the course continues on Route 77 and Sawyer Street, until it crosses at Cottage Road in South Portland and circles back to Preble Street.
Last year, the 3-mile run portion, which begins at Southern Maine Community College, had been slightly tweaked – a majority of the run occurred in an opposite route, requiring runners to complete the course backward after they got off the SMCC campus.
As in years’ past, 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 there, runners will again travel Madison Street and take a left onto Breakwater and back across Broadway to the SMCC campus in front of the cafeteria.
They will then take a U-turn to Shoreway Lane, where the finish line is located.
Along with Tri for a Cure, Marchese and a few friends founded sheJAMS in 2010, which offers training programs for women triathletes, including biking, swimming, running and strength training, in a social atmosphere.
“When I did my first triathlon, I remember feeling like I had no clue how to train, what to wear,” Marchese said.
And because women always have questions about what a triathlon is and how to get involved, Marchese and her friends started sheJAMS to help them find those answers. A majority of women, who are cancer survivors and who train with sheJAMS, also participate in Tri for a Cure, Marchese said.
“We make them feel comfortable, so when they show up on race day, they know everything they need to know about being there,” she said. “It’s great camaraderie and no one feels like they are alone.”
Her favorite part of race day is inspiring other women and watching them cross the finish line for the very first time.
“There are no words for race day,” she said.
As for the money raised at Tri for a Cure, “every year has grown, and we are of course hoping that this year does, too,” Marchese said. “Even if we break even, we will be completely happy. Right now, we are well ahead of last year. We sell out every year. The popularity is very strong and people want to be a part of it,” she said.
On July 19, the Maine Cancer Foundation will announce seven organizations that will receive a combined $850,000 in grant funding for cancer research. The foundation has disbursed about $200,000 in grants this year for education and support programs statewide.
A CLOSER LOOK
The Tri for a Cure Expo is Saturday, July 19, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., outside the Culinary Arts building on the campus of Southern Maine Community College. Triathlon participants can pick up their packets and there will be a vendor fair, food and giveaways.
The race day schedule on Sunday, July 20, SMCC
5-6 a.m. – Packet pick-up opens in front of Campus Center
7 a.m. – Access to VIP parking lot closed
7:15 a.m. – Opening ceremony at Spring Point Beach
7:30 a.m. – Vendor and display area re-opens in Lot BB behind Campus Center
7:30 a.m. – Race begins – Survivor swim waves first at Spring Point Beach
8 a.m. – First bikers start at transition area Lot B
8:45 a.m. – First runners start at transition area Lot B
9:15 a.m. – First athletes cross the Finish Line near the vendor and display area
10:45 a.m. – Closing ceremony and awards near the DJ/band
For more information, see www.triforacure.org.