While Maine’s fall foliage is hitting its peak, hundreds of marathoners from across North America hope to hit theirs at Sunday’s Mount Desert Island Marathon.
The 26.2-mile journey from downtown Bar Harbor to down-town Southwest Harbor starts at 8 a.m. with walkers going off at 7.
Defending champion David Herr of Vermont returns to defend his title, but some of Maine’s finest runners, including Eric Rudolph, Andy Beardsley, Steve McCarthy and Robbie Gomez are aiming to unseat the 43-year-old four-time champ.
“David’s not getting any younger but he’s still the man to beat,” said race director Gary Allen. “He knows the course, he knows how to run fast on the course.”
Herr has won four of the six MDI Marathons contested.
Two-time race winner Lara Judson of Mount Desert may emerge as a favorite in the women’s field, as reigning champ and course record holder Judi Chiavetta will not return to defend her title.
Kim Pursley-Goff of Gilford, N.H., and Debbie Moreau of Turner also headline a women’s race that could very well come down to a finishing kick.
“I think the women’s race will probably change leads a lot, I don’t see someone taking off and running away from anyone,” Allen said.
Sheri Piers, a Falmouth runner who competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Boston last spring, is scheduled to speak at the pre-race pasta dinner at MDI High School on Saturday evening, but Allen said she is not registered to run.
“If she wants a bib number, she will have one,” he said.
Runners from 49 states and six Canadian provinces comprise the 932 registered runners as of Tuesday. The field will be capped at 1,000.
Among the new features this year is a charity relay set up for law enforcement officers and firefighters.
The relay consists of four legs, the first three 6 miles apiece and the last 2.2 miles. Local teams signed up include a crew from the Maine State Police, Mount Desert Police Department and the Maine Wardens Service.
All registered runners will receive commemorative race jackets while runners will get a medal and T-shirt upon completing the race. The shirts will feature the word “finisher” on the front and back with maps of both the Island and the course.
Running hall to induct four
Scott Brown of Lewiston, Andrea Hatch of Castine, Julia Kirtland of Portland and Kennebunk native Erik Nadeau of Belchertown, Mass., will be enshrined into the Maine Running Hall of Fame at its 15th induction ceremony Nov. 2 at Killarney’s Restaurant in Waterville.
In addition to the runners being inducted, the Portland Boys and Girls Club and Bangor Labor Day 5-milers will be recognized as two of the country’s oldest races.
Brown started his running career at Wells High School, where he won the 1975 Class B individual cross country championship. He owns personal bests of 4:24 in the mile, 31:21 for the 10K, 51:49 for 10 miles and 2:33:32 at the Boston Marathon.
The founder of the PR Racing Team, Brown has coached at Oxford Hills of South Paris, Dirigo of Dixfield and Lewiston, as well as in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Brown is also a track official and race director.
Hatch has run 31 consecutive Boston Marathons (1978-2008), a record for women participants. The veteran of 80 marathons holds a Boston PR of 3:16:01 and an overall best of 3:09.
She has competed in numerous national track and field and cross country championships, and boasts bests of 1:28:40 in the half marathon and 39:23 in the 10K.
Kirtland was the first female athlete in NCAA history to win individual crowns in cross country and indoor and outdoor track in the same academic year while attending Macalester College.
Kirtland was an eight-time NCAA Division III champion, 16-time All-American in cross country, indoor and outdoor track, 1996 RRCA Roads Scholar and a 1997 national marathon champion with a personal-best time of 2:37:46.
She also won the Maine women’s division at the first three Beach to Beacon 10Ks (1998-2000).
Nadeau was the first Mainer to eclipse the 4-minute barrier in the mile (3:59.6). He earned six state titles in the 300, 400, 600 meters and triple jump at Kennebunk High, and was a five-time All-American at Northeastern University in the 800 and 1,500.
He ran to third-place honors at the 1996 World Indoor Championships, and has coached four NCAA champions at Amherst College.
The banquet is open to the public but tickets are limited, so reservations are recommended. Festivities begin at noon with a social hour, with lunch and the induction ceremony to follow. Tickets are $25, and may be obtained at the door or by contacting Skip Howard at 947-4836 or email@example.com.