Spare and her training buddy finish the last section of the triathlon.

CHASE — Hundreds of people strapped on their goggles, put pedal to the metal and laced up their tennis shoes for the 2019 Baltimore Triathlon in Gunpowder Falls State Park.

The “sprint” triathlon was 750 meters of swimming, 13.8 miles of biking and a 5k run. The woman’s race began at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday and the men’s race at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday.

Will Murdoch, director of events for the Baltimore Triathlon, said Gunpowder Falls State Park is a perfect location for this race.

“We have held events in the Hammerman Area of Gunpowder State Park since 2010 and have always loved the parks close proximity to Baltimore and its amazing scenery,” said Murdoch.

“The water is shallow and inviting for beginning swimmers, and the neighborhoods surrounding the park have embraced the event and supported us every year.”

This particular race draws so many people every year due to its friendly terrain. Murdoch said it’s perfect for first time triathletes.

“The course is one of the flattest in Maryland, with just over 200 feet of elevation gain on the bike and less than 100 feet on the run course,” he said. “It’s perfect for beginning triathletes looking to explore the sport, as well as seasoned athletes looking to close out their racing season.”

The course was perfect for Donna Spare, a realtor from Middle River. Spare said she trained hard to compete in her first triathlon this weekend.

“I started training back in March,” she said.

“I didn’t know how to swim, I didn’t own a bike, and I hate running. I got a coach through AJ Baucco Coaching and I learned how to swim at BBCC’s pool and at Gunpowder State Park. I had to learn from the very beginning, like how to blow bubbles underwater.”

At the age of 56, Spare said she is proud of herself for trying something new.

“I just wanted to do something different in my life,” Spare said. “I’ve lived here for about 30 years and have never really taken advantage of what our community has to offer. Gunpowder is really a gem and the triathlon community is just amazing here.”

Baltimore County has many “gems”, according to Murdoch, and has, “the best parks and recreation facilities in the state.”

Murdoch and Spare said they advise people who are interested in competing in their first triathlon to join a club or group of people to train with.

Spare joined the Baltimore Area Triathlon Club.

“One woman I trained with pushed me during the race and said to me, ‘We trained together, so we are going to finish this thing together,’” she said.

“And I ended up having my best 5k time.”

Murdoch said people who participate in these races do them to not only stay physically fit but to run in honor of a loved one, overcome an injury, or, like Spare, simply try something new.

“Everybody in the race has a story to tell. That’s the great part about training for an event like this. Nobody lives in a bubble and the experience of training and completing a triathlon will change the way you think about a lot of things and give you an appreciation for what people are capable of,” Murdoch said.

That rang true for Spare, who said she realized she is not only capable of completing a triathlon but pushing herself harder to finish with a faster time.

“The goal was to finish the triathlon and I did,” she said.

“I kind of didn’t push myself too hard because it was my first one and I didn’t want to get hurt but I know I can do better.”

Spare said she signed up for a half Iron Man race in Cambridge in June to push herself even harder.

Thanks to this weekend’s race, Spare found herself a new hobby that makes her happy.

“I thought I was going to cry because I worked so hard and it’s such a big accomplishment for me to do this. Instead I smiled the whole time. It was the best day ever.”

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