BANGOR, Maine — Amanda LaBelle tried inadvertently to avoid one of the toughest uphills in all of Maine road racing, but corrected herself quickly.
As the 25-year-old from Rockland churned up Fourteenth Street Hill a little more than two miles into the 47th Bangor Labor Day 5-mile road race Monday morning, she accidentally went past the curb that marks where runners turn up the steep path and onto Holland Street, but realized her mistake in mere seconds.
“It was obviously marked that I should go [up the path] but I didn’t trust it for whatever reason,” LaBelle said.
But LaBelle, who won the Sugarloaf Marathon in May and is gearing up for the MDI Marathon in October, ascended that tough climb with no problem and coasted down the remaining downhills on West Broadway and Buck Street for her first Labor Day crown.
LaBelle, who made her Labor Day debut, covered the course in 32-minutes flat, 31 seconds ahead of runnerup Elizabeth Brunton of Birch Harbor.
Kristina O’Donnell of Hampden was third among female runners in 32:50 with Kristine Guaraldo of South Portland taking fourth in 33:01 and Kate Goupee of Ellsworth fifth at 33:45.
The men’s race also had a first-time champ in Erik McCarthy of Orono, who took command of the race about a mile and a half in and outdueled Bangor’s Adam Goode over the final miles to win in 26:30.
Goode, a former Labor Day champ, took second in 26:43 while Andrew Goupee, Kate’s husband, was third in 27:04.
Rounding out the top five was Eric Rudolph of Sullivan in 27:07 and Phil LeBreton of Bangor, another former winner, in 27:13.
LaBelle, who had never seen the course before Monday’s race, actually relished the challenge of it.
“It was nice, the last couple miles you just kind of cruise down,” she said. “I would come back next year, it’s a really fun course.”
The Windham native added that she was using the race as a training run for the upcoming MDI Marathon.
The men’s race went out fairly quickly, with the speedy LeBreton, one of the top milers in Eastern Maine in his days at Brewer High, taking the field out at a sub-5 minute clip, which is a bit unusual for McCarthy.
“He thought we were going slow but sub-5 pace is pretty quick for me,” McCarthy said.
Goode, McCarthy, Rudolph, Goupee and sixth-place finisher Joe Capehart of Bangor were among those chasing LeBreton, and McCarthy and Goode caught up on Harlow Street, just before the uphills.
McCarthy actually stretched his lead out a bit up Holland Street and Union Street, which features another small climb near Mansfield Stadium, but Goode tried to reel McCarthy in on West Broadway.
“Adam was about 50 yards back from me through 4, then I think he was starting to close on me on the downhills,” McCarthy said.
But McCarthy had just enough gas in his tank to emerge with the win over Goode, another one of the region’s top runners.
“It feels great to win this race, the longest consecutively run race in Maine,” McCarthy said. “This is only the second or third time I’ve run this one.”
The hilly middle mile proved no daunting task for McCarthy, who ran the Potato Blossom 5-miler in Fort Fairfield over the summer, and that course features a 2-mile uphill stretch in the beginning.
The race was also a homecoming of sorts for Brunswick High boys track coach Dan Dearing of Lisbon Falls.
Dearing, a Millinocket native, placed ninth overall in 29:16 to win the 40-49 age group title.
Also finishing in the top 10 were James Peckenham of Orland in seventh, Cam Gould of Old Town in eighth and Austin Townsend of Perry in 10th.
A total of 120 runners completed Monday’s race.