SOUTH PORTLAND — Nearly 1,300 women swam, biked and ran Sunday morning in the 12th Tri for a Cure – the Maine Cancer Foundation’s largest annual fundraising event.

The all-female triathlon has raised more than $16 million for the foundation since 2008. This year, participants raised approximately $2 million. All funds support cancer research, awareness and prevention in Maine.

The event, based at Southern Maine Community College, included cancer survivors and was open to triathletes of all levels of experience. The course featured a 1/3-mile swim in Portland Harbor, a 15-mile bike ride into Cape Elizabeth, and a 3-mile run to Bug Light and back.

At a prerace ceremony, nearly all participants raised their hands when Julie Marchese, the race’s founder and director, ask if their lives had been touched in some way by cancer.

“The race just brings together so many different women of all shapes and sizes,” said Heidi Watson, 47, of South Portland, who won the survivor section of the race for the fourth consecutive year in a time of 1 hour, 23 minutes and 40 seconds.

Watson, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer eight years ago, participated in Tri for a Cure for the sixth time. She trains with a group called The Sustainable Athlete.

“Some people do the whole race, some people only do part of the race, but it’s such a great community,” said Watson. “I wouldn’t have had the courage to participate in my first (triathlon) unless it was this one.”

Stephanie Doyon, 26, of Scarborough was the overall winner in 1:15:06.

More than 500 volunteers, many of them cancer survivors, handed out water, helped at transition areas and cheered participants along the course.

Abbey Hybl, 25, of Portland was third overall with a time of 1:17:01. It was her third year participating.

“All you think about whenever you’re tired is that survivors and fighters are not giving up, so ‘Let’s go,’” said Hybl. “Once you turn the corner and you hear people cheering – it gets you going.”

Although the race’s participants are all women, the event draws support throughout the Greater Portland community.

Mike Mwenedata, the founder of Rwanda Bean Coffee in South Portland, found a creative way to show his support. To raise money for the event, Rwanda Bean has been selling a limited-edition roast, the Tri for a Cure Blend.

For customers who live within 10 miles of Rwanda Bean’s store in South Portland, Mwenedata, an avid runner, has been delivering orders on foot. For customers farther away, he has delivered via bicycle.

“I’ve always wanted to participate in the (Tri for a Cure), but I didn’t know how, because the whole race is just women,” said Mwenedata.

Over the past six weeks, Mwenedata has traveled nearly 360 miles to make deliveries. The promotion has raised more than $3,000 for Tri for a Cure.

“It kept up my personal training,” said Mwenedata.

After the race, participants gathered for a celebratory dance party and enjoyed concessions from an assembly of food trucks, including, of course, Rwanda Bean Coffee.

“It’s a wonderful event,” said Watson. “After (beating) cancer, you think, ‘What have you got to lose?’”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.