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December 7, 2018

Fourth Millinocket Marathon this weekend features lots of local events

Courtesy / Jessica Masse
Courtesy / Jessica Masse
The Millinocket Marathon, which started as a spur-of-the-moment idea by Mount Desert Island runner Gary Allen to help boost the town's economy, has been organized as a nonprofit to ensure it grows and remains sustainable, said John Hafford, the president of the 501(c)(3).

Some 2,600 runners have signed up for the fourth Millinocket Marathon and Half Marathon on Saturday — more than twice the number who ran last year and considerably more than 52 runners in 2015 who kicked off the race as a way of contributing to the Katahdin region's economy.

Events surrounding the race have grown, too, creating a weekend event for local businesses. While the race is free, those attending are asked to spend in the Katahdin Region what they'd normally spend on a registration fee.

"As we all know this event was created solely to help the town and people of Millinocket, and the entire Katahdin region," the race website says. "It was never our intention for the town or region to have to do anything for us. Well, as we also know [that's] not how real Mainer's roll, and the entire region is both excited and energized."

The site points out that "there are many, many dinners, activities and other things planned," and asks runners to patronize them.

There is an artisan's fair at Stearns High School today and tomorrow, pancake and spaghetti dinners tonight, as well as a 2K race that raises money for heating oil for local families.

Then there's the Millinocket Marathon & Half Variety Show at Stearns High School, which includes music, dancing and other entertainment, which raises money for the Millinocket Performing Arts Boosters.

Runners are encouraged to stay in town after the race for events that include three parties:

  • A dance at the Elks Club with a live band and hamburgers, hot dogs, chili and pizza that sold out last year.
  • Another party, also with live music at the Highlands Tavern at Pamola Motor Lodge, which was recently renovated by owner Chris Car.
  • An Ugly Sweater Party at the New England Outdoor Center's River Drivers Restaurant.

The race also asks donations to Our Katahdin and the Friends of the Millinocket Regional Library. Those efforts have raised $13,507 so far this year for Our Katahdin, a volunteer group that supports local projects both big and small, and $11,735 for the library.

Because it's free, the race has few of the amenities runners expect (T-shirts, official water stops), but the community has filled in many of the gaps in the spirit of the philosophy behind the race.

While there are no free official race T-shirts, the Moose Drop Inn has created shirts for sale, and other local merchants are also selling "race bling." The town is encouraging runners and those in town for the fun to share on social media using the hashtag #shopmillinocket.

Same race, new organizers

The marathon is a double-loop, and the half is a single loop. Both start downtown at Veterans Park and run out the Golden Road toward Mount Katahdin before looping back.

Runner Hope Rowan has created an interactive map on the marathon's website that not only shows the route, but resources around town. Groups have taken it upon themselves to set up water stops along the route.

The race was first organized by Gary Allen of Crow Athletics, in 2015, but in July was reorganized as a nonprofit. Allen remains the race director.

Much of the race on Saturday will look the same to runners and fans, but the added structure means those organizing it could handle more efficiently the promotions, sponsorships and all the details that go into hosting a marathon.

John Hafford, president of the nonprofit, said in July one benefit of the new organization is that it will help track the regional economic benefits of the race, something that hasn't been done since it began except anecdotally.

In its first year, the race drew 52 runners. Allen has said he organized the race after reading an article about the town's economic struggles. In 2016, it drew 552 and got national attention, including an article in Runner's World magazine. In 2017, 1,856 runners from around the world registered for the race and nearly 1,100 finished.

Because the number of runners has grown, organizers provide bus shuttle service from Stearns High School, where they register and pick up their bibs, to the downtown start, rather than runners parking downtown.

The race also now partners with the Mount Desert Island Marathon and Half as the Sea to Summit Maine Race Series, and those who register for the October race can also chose to automatically be registered for the Millinocket one.

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