The Sugarloaf Marathon has always been a popular mid-May destination for runners, with its fast, Boston Marathon-qualifier course and intimacy in Maine’s western mountain region.
But as the race and accompanying 15K (9.3 miles) event prepare to celebrate their 29th runnings on Sunday, a record field is expected, with 934 runners from 29 states and four Canadian provinces signed up as of Wednesday afternoon.
“Unless for some reason 300 people don’t show up, there will be a record,” said Sugarloaf Communications Manager Ethan Austin said.
Six-hundred forty-four runners finished the races last spring.
Among those returning to participate in the 26.2-mile journey from Eustis to Kingfield are defending champions Gabriel Helmlinger of Cambridge, Mass., and Amanda Labelle of Rockland.
“He’s probably a good bet to finish in the front of the pack, if not win it again,” said Austin.
One thing is changing among the registration process this year, as runners will not be able to sign up the day of the races.
Registration will conclude at 11 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, with fees set at $78 for the marathon and $38 for the 15K. Prospective participants should log onto www.sugarloaf.com/marathon to sign up.
“When the marathon was smaller, we were able to accommodate (race-day registration), but with the numbers of runners we’ve had the last few years, it’s proven too complicated,” Austin said.
In addition to being a Boston qualifier, Sugarloaf’s marathon course is certified by USA Track and Field, with the 15K route following the last 9.3 miles of the marathon course.
Both races follow Route 27 from start to finish, and are fast courses with very few climbs. Runners are provided breathtaking views of the mountain ranges and Carrabassett River, which parallels the course.
Those are certainly factors in the boom in registration this spring, Austin said, and Sugarloaf is a course on which marathoners traditionally run personal bests, or qualify for larger events, such as Boston.
“It’s known as a fairly fast marathon. Even though we’re up here in the mountains, the majority of the marathon is downhill,” he said. “We kind of take pride in the fact that its a well-run marathon. People have good things to say about it.”
Runners may not have the crowds that they may have at marathons in Boston, New York or Chicago, but nothing can beat the intimacy of Sugarloaf, a big reason most runners choose to make this their first marathon.
“It’s kind of a friendly one if you’ve never done one before,” Austin said.
All proceeds from the races will go to the Sugarloaf Region Charitable Trust, a private, nonprofit trust dedicated to improving the quality of life for the communities that make up the Sugarloaf area. More than $10,000 was raised last spring.
The top three men and women in each race will go home with solid paychecks, with the marathon winners pocketing $500, and a $300 bonus will be included if the winning male runs 2:30 or better and the female 2:50 or better.
Winners in the 15K will receive $300.
Pre-race festivities include an all-you-can-eat pasta dinner at the King Pine Room in the Sugarloaf Base Lodge on Saturday from 5-8 p.m., and for those who need lodging, it is available at the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel for $90 per person per night. Log onto www.sugarloaf.com for further lodging information.
Patty’s Race set Sunday in Lee
If you’re looking for a shorter race to do this weekend, head to Lee for the Patricia Lynn Corbin 3.15-miler, or “Patty’s Race.”
This event will take place at Lee Academy, with registration getting under way at 11 a.m. and the race at 1 p.m. An awards ceremony will follow inside Lee’s gymnasium.
The course follows portions of Lee’s cross country course, along with dirt roads and pavement.
This race honors the memory of Corbin, a former Lee Academy cross country runner who was killed in an automobile accident in 2002, and the race benefits a scholarship fund in her name. The fee is $10.