Tri for a Cure participants in 2017. This year’s Tri for a Cure has been shifted to a virtual format to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The tri-athalon will take place for participants through the month of August. Courtesy photo of Julia Bachelder

SOUTH PORTLAND — Maine Cancer Foundation will still hold Tri for a Cure this summer, but the 13th annual triathalon fundraiser will be virtual as a health precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally scheduled for July 19, the Maine Cancer Foundation has moved the triathalon to the entire month of August, said Julia Bachelder, event manager. Participants will complete their course on any day between Aug. 1 and 30.

Moving the event to the span of a month also prevents large crowds of participants in close proximity, Bachelder said.

Tri for a Cure draws 1,200 to 1,300 participants each year, making it the foundation’s signature event, she said. According to the Maine Cancer Foundation website, 100 percent of funds stay in Maine and go toward helping those dealing with cancer.

In 2017, the event raised over $1.7 million, according to statistics from the Maine Cancer Foundation. Between 2008 and 2016, the event had over 10,000 participants.

Consisting of a bike, swim, and run, Tri for a Cure is usually held at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, but this year organizers are asking that participants not to complete the triathalon on the traditional course.

Instead, the Maine Cancer Foundation is inviting people to complete the virtual event at their own pace, with three different options to choose from. Option one consists of a one-third of a mile swim, 15-mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run; option two, a duathalon, is a run, bike ride, and another run; and option three is any combination of the bike, swim and run elements.

“We’re emphasizing that it’s not competitive, but we want people to cheer each other on,” said Bachelder.

She said that every year participants are committed to raising a minimum of $500, but this year’s Tri for a Cure has taken out that requirement. Participants are encouraged to raise funds, but there is no penalty if that goal is not met.

Maine Cancer Foundation also did a virtual event for the 2020 Mary’s Walk and Kerryman 5K in March, said Bachelder. As the COVID-19 pandemic continued, the foundation recognized that it would not be able to postpone the triathalon to the fall, as students returning to campus in the fall prevents use of SMCC’s facilities.

Tri for a Cure participants will still have the opportunity to share experiences and stories, over Facebook, Bachelder said. The event’s page already has over 250 members.

“We’re fortunate that people were already signed up, and we wanted to have a meaningful experience,” she said. “People do the triathalon because they’re committed to finding a cure. For me it’s not a better experience, but it’s different because you can hear from each individual why it’s important to them.”

The team is still figuring out the details, she said. Participants will remain updated as more information comes.

People can still register at triforacure.org. There is a $50 registration fee that serves as a donation.

“Our motto has been ‘Cancer Tries. We TRI Harder!’ and that will not change this year,” the Maine Cancer Foundation said in a written statement. “While it is unfortunate that we will be unable to proceed in the manner that our participants have come to expect, we are excited about the opportunities that a virtual event offers. Most importantly, we will continue to stand up to cancer. While we have all been at home, staying away from the gyms, the tracks, and the pools, cancer has not been canceled and is not practicing social distancing.”

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