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Florida’s fastest-growing active adult retirement community, The Villages, markets itself as a place “where everything you could possibly want, need, or dream of doing in your retirement years is just a golf car ride away.” But Donna Maguire would rather ride her bike, not a golf cart. So would 175 of her fellow members of The Villages Triathlon Club, who prove that retirement doesn’t mean the end of work.
Maguire, a longtime triathlete, founded the club shortly after moving to The Villages in 2014. She was surprised to learn that The Villages, despite its proximity to the triathlon mecca of Clermont, had no multisport team. “There was a bicycle club and a Masters swim team, but no triathlon or running club,” she recalled. “I recruited members of those groups to make the switch to triathlon. They fell in love with the sport, and never looked back.”
Because The Villages is a retirement community, most members of the club are over the age of 60; quite a few join in their mid-to-late 70s. Almost all are first-time triathletes, with members completing everything from super sprint races to Iron-distance triathlons. In 2019, two members qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. All of these athletes train together, supporting each other through swim workouts, group rides, and long runs through the streets and trails of The Villages.
“It’s been very exciting to watch a new member complete their first triathlon, something they never imagined they would do,” Maguire said.”Some members had to learn how to swim and bike in order to complete their first triathlon. The support they get from within our community has been amazing.”
Triathlete Pat Johnson agreed. Shortly after celebrating her 70th birthday, she met Maguire at a pickleball court and learned of the triathlon club. “I didn’t know anything about doing a triathlon. I didn’t really know how to swim, hardly did any biking, and didn’t really run. But the team was kind enough to take me under their wing. Six years later, I have done 19 sprint triathlons. This club is a place where people can learn about this fantastic sport.”
But Maguire said triathlon is a vehicle for something greater: “Wonderful friendships and memories have been created as a result of this group. It’s been inspiring and motivating to see how our club motivates and inspires others. We’ve become a family who enjoys training and racing together.”