Hero Triathlon series aims to support female veterans

Published On April 30, 2013 | By Jill Saftel

Jason Fowler is paralyzed from the chest down. A motorcycle accident when he was 17 made it so that his mobility was limited to his arms, but that doesn’t stop him from being an elite athlete. Fowler is both a 2009 Ironman World Champion and 2012 70.3 Half Ironman World Champion. Since his accident, he has completed over 150 road races, 30 marathons, and 29 marathons, solely with the use of his arms.

Fowler is just one of the inspiring athletes who’ll be racing in the Hero Triathlon series this summer, supporting veterans and physically disabled competitors.

The Hero Triathlon series includes two races: one on July 21 on Nantucket Island and a second on Sept. 8 in Mashpee on Cape Cod. Both consist of Olympic distance events; an 0.9 mile swim followed by 25-mile bike and a 6.2 mile run. The race in Mashpee is the only Olympic distance race on the Cape, which stages its bike course within the secured grounds of Otis Air Force Base.

The races’ co-founders, Jamie Ranney and Bill Burnett, are no strangers to these events. They’ve been recognized in the triathlon community for building successful events, including the sold out Cohasset Triathlon (June 30) and Nantucket Triathlon (July 20).

Ranney and Burnett met at Ohio Wesleyan University in the early 1990s and their friendship has turned into a strong partnership, translating to building great events.

But the Hero Triathlon series isn’t your average race, it’s not only centered around supporting veterans, but zeroes in on the fastest growing segment of the veteran population – women. Ranney had the idea for the “hero” concept several years ago, and consulted Burnett’s advice before the two took it onto the athletic stage.

“Over the last ten years I’ve competed in dozens of triathlons and I am always so motivated and moved by the aggressive participation of veteran athletes in these events – particularly those vets that have suffered debilitating injuries in the service of our country,” Ranney said. “I went to Bill [Burnett] and told him we needed to do something to help these vets capitalize on the challenges, physical benefits and close-camaraderie of the sport of triathlon and to promote awareness and appreciation for all they do for us.”

The races were founded with the goal of aiding those who having served the United States faithfully and with honor and dignity. Veterans need our help when they return home. From physical injuries to the invisible ones regarding mental and emotional health, soldiers deserve all the support they can get.

The 2013 Hero Triathlon will benefit the Women Veterans’ Network (WVN) of Massachusetts and other veteran service organizations making a difference in the lives of veterans and their families. Burnett said he and Ranney are proud to help support WVN.

Others can do their part by participating in the race. Participants have a few options when it comes to entering. An entrant can compete as an individual or as part of a relay team with two or three members each taking a leg of the race. There are also registration options for military and paratriathletes, like Fowler.

Burnett said with the recent tragedies in Boston, he’s striving for the triathlon series to mirror the community’s strength in hard times.

“Given the events at the Boston Marathon and the victims impacted, we have witnessed some incredible acts of strength and  courage,” Burnett said. “It is our hope that the Hero Triathlon series will provide a platform for athletes at all levels to achieve their goals, support a good cause, and cheer on athletes are who show some incredible determination.”

For more information on the races or to register, visit www.herotri.com.

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About The Author

Jill studies journalism at Northeastern University, covers Hockey East for College Hockey News and is the sports editor for The Huntington News. You can follow her on Twitter at @jillsaftel, just don't ask her to choose between hockey and baseball, it's impossible.