Roxanna Brophy, 69, poses with her bike on the road outside her Falmouth home Tuesday. Brophy has been participating in the Tri for a Cure triathlon fundraiser almost since its beginning in 2008. This year, the Maine Cancer Foundation, which sponsors the event, held a partially virtual version. Sean Murphy / The Forecaster

Maine Cancer Foundation’s Tri for a Cure fundraiser has been an annual tradition since 2008, and this year, organizers are running it once again as a mostly virtual event, with an optional 5K road race Sunday to cap off the effort.

“It’s a way for women to come together and celebrate the last course of the event,” said Julia Bachelder, events manager for Maine Cancer Foundation, which is based in Falmouth.

The annual cancer research fundraiser invites women to register and take part in a triathlon. In previous years leading up to 2020, the event included a one-third-mile swim, followed by a 15-mile bicycle ride, followed by a 5K road race. All starting and ending points for each leg of the event are traditionally located on the South Portland campus of Southern Maine Community College, a longtime sponsor of the event, with the land-based race courses running through the streets of the city, Bachelder said.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, however, Bachelder said participating women took part in a virtual event and were encouraged to do each leg of the course on their own. This year, she said, more than 700 women have registered for the partially virtual event. All the foundation asks is that women do the legs somewhere, somehow, anytime from the beginning of July to this Sunday. Participants may even do the triathlon’s legs on different days if they wish.

“We want everybody to be safe,” Bachelder said. “Everybody’s on a different course.”

There’s a limited amount of in-person activity this year. Bachelder said the foundation hosted “clinics,” like it does every year, giving women a chance to practice different legs. This year the foundation hosted a trial swim at Crystal Lake in Gray, a group yoga session at Bug Light Park in South Portland and another bicycle course that is different from the traditional route through South Portland.

On July 18 the foundation will host a 5K run on the SMCC campus for women who registered for the event and raised more than $250. It’s the first portion of the event to take place on the campus since the pandemic began.

“SMCC is excited to support the Maine Cancer Foundation’s efforts by providing the location for the 5K road race,” said SMCC President Joe Cassidy. “We are hopeful that the event will return to campus in full capacity in the future.”

Bachelder said women may do the 5K race as part of their triathlon or in addition.

Roxanna Brophy, 69, has done the annual triathlon almost from the beginning. Now living in Falmouth, she used to live in South Portland, right on the bicycle course, and said she was inspired by seeing bikers and runners taking part in the inaugural event in 2008.

“I watched it and it was the most amazing thing to me,” she said.

Brophy has been participating in the event ever since. The triathlon’s purpose, raising money for cancer research, hits home for her, too. She lost her mother to brain cancer 20 years ago, and a good friend died of breast cancer 10 years ago. She said she also knows other people who have battled the disease. This year, she said, she raised $9,000, in part due to help from her wife, Peggy Cyr, a family doctor at Maine Medical Center.

“She’s my biggest fundraiser,” she said.

Brophy said she has already done the entire triathlon. She completed it July 11, her birthday, swimming at Togus Pond in Augusta and doing both the bike ride and run on the Kennebec River Rail Trail.

“The fact that it’s virtual really doesn’t matter to me,” she said.

Brophy said she doesn’t need to gauge herself by other athletes, noting she only competes with herself.

“The older I get, the prouder I am of myself (for doing it),” she said.

Brophy acknowledged it was a somewhat strange experience doing it on her own, but the cause, along with the volume of women taking part, provides a sense of community, she said.

“I didn’t feel like I was doing it on my own,” she said. “There’s just a camaraderie you feel because of what you’re doing.”

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