On Sunday, Sept. 5, the Maine Sport Triathlon will celebrate its 30th anniversary. The same day at the same event, Parker Johnson of Lincolnville also will celebrate his 30th anniversary — competing in the event.

Yes, that is correct; Johnson has done every one.

It is no small feat to complete one triathlon let alone one a year for 30 years. It is also remarkable that the 50-year-old Johnson has participated in the event for most of his life.

“I’m feeling good,” he said. “In order to do this you have to be in a certain amount of good condition and when you are in good condition it just makes you feel good.”

Johnson said that he thinks this year is significant. “You have to; 30 years, certainly. But next year will be good too. They are all good. Just to do it.”

He got into the event in 1980 when a coworker, who was organizing the triathlon, asked him to participate.

“A 20-year-old guy, I’d do just about anything,” Johnson said, “So I said ‘Sure I’ll do it.’ “

He had no particular drive to do it — simply being young was enough. “I think it was youth, just a 20-year-old kid that could just get up and do anything,” he said. “It all changes at 50 years old. It’s a hell of a lot different.”

Injuries are a part of his age and this year Johnson has to deal with plantar fasciitis, which has forced him to quit running for training. Plantar fasciitisis is the irritation and swelling of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot. The most common complaint is pain in the
bottom of the heel.

To keep in physical condition, Johnson has increased his biking and swimming. So far he has rode 2,600 miles on his bike this year and feels he can train with biking alone.

He reached his best bike speed last year, 20.4 miles per hour, and hopes to improve on it this year.

Johnson really focuses on biking. He said he swims at the Penobscot Bay YMCA in the winter but his focal point is on the bike because he feels he can get a better workout with it.

“I don’t think you can reach as high a level of fitness swimming as you can on your bicycle,” he said. “I know you can’t get the kind of aerobic workout swimming as you can charging up Moody Mountain [in Searsmont].”

“You can probably talk to swimmers and they will tell me I’m full of it, but, for me, it’s about getting on the bike and putting miles on the bike,” he said.

After all these years and plenty of injuries, Johnson wants to keep going. His drive is to stay in shape and to stay active. He enjoys the way that being in strong physical condition makes him feel and he wants to keep in touch with that.

“I guess it’s to try and stay in touch with your youth and if I bicycle a lot and have my eyes set on this race yearly … it just makes me feel good,” he said. “I don’t want to become a sedentary person.”

He added that the personal feeling at finish line is second to none. “The thrill of coming down that last pitch towards the finish line [of the] triathlon, there’s not much that equals it during the year,” he said. “That is a fantastic feeling.”

When asked for a race career highlight, Johnson said the memories from the event blend together and he cant choose a particular moment. However, he said that perhaps it was about the people more than an instant in time.

He said that some people that used to watch him race or have raced with him are now dead and the event is a way to remember them. Looking back on the races it hasn’t been the course or the race that stuck with him but the people and their memories.

While he may not have ever won the race, Johnson has not only proved his tenacity on the course but his athleticism as well. He places in the mid-range most of the time but has made a few top-10 finishes and top finishes among the local competitors. Lately he has been placing in the top third or quarter.

“I have always felt like I’m faster then some and there are others faster than me and that’s just the way it is,” he said.

Given three decades of triathlon experience, Johnson has picked up a few tricks about the event and has certainly learned how to do it. “I’ve learned how to stay fit and what is fit enough,” he said.

He has also learned to pay attention to his body. After all these years he knows when to back off and when his body can handle more pressure. Even five years ago he did the course with a blown anterior cruciate ligament and a missing meniscus “so I knew I had to monitor my running around that time so I could do it.”

With such, Johnson could be considered an expert on the triathlon. He has had people ask his advice on the race and he has done his best to help them when he can.

For those interested he said the best advice is to put your time in and train. “Just getting out there, just do it,” he said. “I think most anybody can do it. I think people would surprise themselves if they decided, ‘Well, here is the chunk of time I’m going to set aside to train.’ “

Surprisingly, Johnson has had little interest in other races. He said he likes that this triathlon is local and, even though he has done a few others, he prefers the Maine Sport event.

Also, with his six-year-old daughter Alley, wife Becky, and a sailboat, he said he doesn’t feel like he needs to spend more time competing in triathlons than he does.

“It just turned out this was a focus for me and I stuck with it,” he said. “I guess I just felt like I didn’t need to go out and compete in bigger ones.”

If one may think Johnson is going to slow down they might be mistaken. Johnson plans to race in the Maine Sport Triathlon as long as he is physically able.

“It’s just a challenge, keeping it going,” he said. “Can I do it another 10 years? It’s a challenge that I do for myself, I suppose, bottom line.”

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at fritz@villagesoup.com.