BANGOR, Maine — Country music star Jason Aldean and the 14,000 fans on hand for his concert Sunday evening had barely left the nearby Bangor Waterfront Pavilion when Gary Allen began running the Bangor Labor Day 5-Mile Road Race.
No matter that the race wasn’t supposed to start for another 8½ hours.
For the 55-year-old Allen, it was all about honoring a tradition, in this case running 10 loops of the course — 50 miles overall — to observe the iconic event’s 50th anniversary.
“The idea probably came about last year,” said Allen, a Great Cranberry Island native who is the founder and race director of the Mount Desert Island Marathon. “I remember reading press about how last year’s race was the 49th, and the 50th of anything is a pretty significant milestone.
“Being someone who really likes symbolism, I think the seed was planted then that it would be pretty cool to run the course 10 times to make up 50 miles.”
Allen didn’t commit to the undertaking until after establishing that the overnight weather would be conducive to running any distance, let alone 50 miles.
“But the weather looked favorable so I gave it a shot,” said Allen, who also organizes the Great Cranberry Island Ultra Marathon each year. “Any time you try to run that kind of a distance there’s a lot of things that can happen and you’re never sure you can do it until you’ve finished it.”
Allen left home about 11 p.m. Sunday, traveling by boat to the mainland and then driving to Bangor.
He started running about 12:30 a.m.
“There was thick fog during the night so it was perfect running conditions,” said Allen. “I was able to click off laps in the high 8-minute and low 9-minute range pretty much all night long.”
Allen ran the first nine loops of the course without stopping except for an occasional drink while making his way from the finish line back to the starting line, but his early morning treks through downtown Bangor were not without challenges.
“During the night I remember at Mile 35 really having sort of a low moment,” he said, “but a good friend of mine, Eric Mauricette, started running with me and helped pull me through it, and from there onward I felt pretty good.”
Allen also drew inspiration from repeatedly passing one of the landmark buildings along the route.
“It was kind of fun running past Stephen King’s house nine times in the darkness,” he said. “I have to say it was a little bit creepy, but I just laughed to myself and now I have to thank Stephen King for that little shot of adrenalin when I ran by his house in the fog. It was very surreal.”
Allen tried to time his first nine loops of the race course so he would finish just in time to start the actual race as his 10th loop.
“I was watching the clock on the side of the Bangor Daily News building on Main Street very carefully from about 4 o’clock on calculating if I was going to make the 9 o’clock start,” he said. “There were a couple of times when due to fatigue I wasn’t doing the math just right and I thought to myself, ‘I don’t think I can make the 9 o’clock start.’”
“The goal going in was to run nine laps for 45 miles and then enjoy the race with all the other runners. I knew roughly what my pace would be, and it turned out pretty good.”
Allen did say the approximately 15-minute break between the completion of his ninth loop and the start of the race wasn’t all that helpful.
“I tightened up a lot,” he said, “but I knew I would.”
Allen finished the race in 39 minutes, 52 seconds — just under an 8-minute mile pace for miles 46-50 of the morning.
“It’s such a cool way to honor the 50th anniversary,” said Louie Luchini of Ellsworth, who set a course record with his winning time of 25:02. “You’ve got to be tough as nails to do that and a little bit crazy, too, I think.
“But Gary’s a great guy and a friend of mine, and he inspired me to go a little faster today.”