Unsung Hero: Theresa Saxton, doing the Iron Man for mom

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YARMOUTH — Why would any sane soul choose to do the Iron Man Triathlon, an event consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile (full marathon) run?

More to the point, why would someone choose to do it solo, without hundreds of fellow competitors from whom to draw energy and support?

Well, Theresa Saxton, the owner of Fitness Success in Yarmouth, is not your everyday tri-athlete. And she’s not an ordinary daughter to her mother, Linda, who has had Alzheimer’s disease for the last dozen years.

The story begins with roasted garlic on the day after Thanksgiving, 1999, in Brighton, Mass.

Saxton asked her mother if she enjoyed the roasted garlic at the dinner. Her mother said she hadn’t had garlic. Saxton insisted and an argument ensued. She knew that something was wrong, as her mother had always loved roasted garlic and she’d never exhibited such forgetfulness. She expressed her concerns to her sister and her father.

Two years later, Saxton’s mother was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The disease has progressed to the point where Linda can no longer talk, and she no longer seems to recognize Saxton. Linda’s father and sister serve as primary caretakers.

The story heated up last December when Saxton offered her clients the opportunity to “Train the Trainer.” That is, they could make her do all the exercises they hated to do if they, in turn, would contribute money to Alzheimer’s research. Saxton raised an incredible $5,100 in just three hours.

Soon after sending the check to the Alzheimer’s Association, Saxton had an idea. Why not tackle an Iron Man right here in Maine to raise even more money – say, $15,000? Inspired by the Alzheimer’s Association’s Longest Day event, why not do her own “Longest Day?”

So she went to work, training hard and inviting her clients, friends and anyone else interested to support her event through contributions and, even better, joining her somewhere along the route.

On Saturday, June 22, Saxton’s dream will become a reality.

At 6:30 a.m., she will enter Crystal Lake in Gray to swim for 2.4 miles, the first leg of her extraordinary journey. Following the swim, she will ride her bike to Yarmouth, then on to Brunswick, back to Falmouth and so on until she has completed 112 miles. Then she will run the 26.2 mile marathon, which will consist of two 13.1 mile loops beginning and ending at Fitness Success, 94 Main St., in Yarmouth.

Based on her three previous triathlons, Saxton estimated that it will take her 14-16 hours to complete her Longest Day.

Many of Saxton’s clients and friends will join her along the way. Others will simply cheer her on at Fitness Success. She invites all interested people to participate however they wish.

“I wanted to do something by myself to raise money for Alzheimer’s,” Saxton said. As she notes in a poster for the event: “While the summer solstice will be the longest day of the calendar year, we know that for people living with Alzheimer’s and their families, every day can feel like the longest day. There are more than 35,000 Alzheimer’s patients in Maine; I’m really proud to be playing a part in supporting those families while honoring my Mom.”

“I also wanted to inspire my clients,” Saxton said. “If I push them hard, I should be willing to push myself to the limit.”

An even bigger factor drives Saxton’s Longest Day dream. “This is what we do as a community,” she said. “We’re all in this together. This is how we show our love.”

For detailed information on how to participate in Theresa Saxton’s The Longest Day event on June 22, go to Fitness-Success.biz.

Sidebar Elements

Theresa Saxton of Yarmouth is training for a full-length Triathalon to raise money for Alzheimer’s disease research. “You have to love to train,” she said, as she set out recently for a ride in the rain.

Unsung Heroes

One in a series of profiles by Brunswick writer David Treadwell about people who quietly contribute to the quality of life in greater Portland. Do you know an Unsung Hero? Tell us: heroes@theforecaster.net.