Running a road race on the Fourth of July is as much a rite of passage for folks in Maine as barbecuing, swimming and catching fireworks.
Thousands of runners from Brewer to York will be lacing up shoes and aiming for personal glory, and perhaps even more today as there are a number of events on tap throughout the state.
Locally, the popular choice seems to be the Walter Hunt Memorial 3K, also dubbed the “Shin Splint 3,000” by some, which starts in Brewer at 10:45 a.m.
The race, which will celebrate its 29th birthday this summer, starts at Dunkin’ Donuts on upper Wilson Street in Brewer and finishes in Pickering Square in Bangor. The parade follows the race, so runners get a chance to run in front of a big crowd.
This is arguably the fastest road race in the state, with an all-downhill first mile — which has been run as quickly as 4 minutes, 10 seconds — a short flat stretch on the Joshua Chamberlain bridge followed by another all-downhill stretch on Main Street while the course flattens out for the last quarter-mile or so.
Riley Masters, who just finished up his freshman year at the University of Maine and ran well at the U.S. National track and field championships in Eugene, Oregon recently, is a favorite to win.
He acknowledged recently that he would like to break the 20-year old course record of 8:10, set in 1987 by Tim Wakeland and tied a year later by Gerry Clapper.
“That’s what we’re all hoping to see, it would be fun to break such a long-standing record of really very-respected runners,” said Sub 5 Track Club president Samantha Matoush, among the race directors.
The race has undertaken new leadership, as longtime race director Dave Torrey handed his duties over to Bangor-based Sub 5 this year, with board and club members Ryan King and Matoush taking care of the race-directing responsibilities.
This is a whole new ballgame to Matoush, a regular at many Sub 5 and local races.
“You don’t even know, I’ve never directed a race before, never been on this end of it before,” she said. “It’s fun though.”
There will also be a slight change in awards this year, as medals will be distributed to age group and overall winners as opposed to the traditional apple pies.
Defending women’s champion Hilary Maxim has not signed up as of yet, which could very well lead to a wide-open female class.
Of course, there are plenty of other events on tap for this weekend.
They include the L.L. Bean 10K in Freeport.
This competitive race goes off at 7:30 a.m. at the Freeport Town Park, and it includes a fun run as well.
For Central Maine runners, there is the 7th annual Friends on the Fourth 5K run, jog and walk, set for 8 a.m. in Winthrop.
This race has attracted more than 500 runners in past years, and features a scenic, challenging course run around Maranacook Lake.
There is also the Heritage Days 5-mile race at 8:30 a.m. in Bath, and the Four on the Fourth four-miler at York High School at 8 a.m.
Finally, if a relay is more your speed, head to Bar Harbor for the 7th annual Around Mount Desert Island Relay race.
This race is a team event that traverses the perimeter of Mount Desert Island.
Racing begins at 7:30 a.m. on Route 3 in Bar Harbor.