BANGOR, Maine — The TD Beach to Beacon 10K held each August generally is considered Maine’s premier running event — and rightfully so.
The road race Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson has brought to Cape Elizabeth for the past 17 years has featured some of the world’s best distance runners amid a giant field that last year involved 6,490 finishers.
But for sheer participation numbers, the Beach to Beacon has nothing on the combined forces of a Fourth of July race calendar that includes more than a dozen races around the state.
While results from all the July 4 races held around the state in 2014 aren’t immediately available, the Fourth on the Fourth 4-miler in Bridgton had 1,967 finishers and the L.L. Bean Fourth of July 10K in Freeport had 1,330 runners cross the finish line — nearly 3,300 between those two races alone.
Then add in the likes of the York Four on the Fourth, 853 finishers in 2014, and Bangor’s Walter Hunt Memorial Fourth of July 3K, 566 finishers a year ago, and the number of running enthusiasts taking to the streets statewide on that date quickly climbs toward 5,000.
That doesn’t count the numerous smaller races, among them the Sebec Village 4th of July 5K, the Firecracker 5K in Thomaston, the Race for Grand Lake Stream 5K, the Castine 5K, the Around MDI Relay, the Friends on the Fourth 5K in Winthrop, the Freedom Color Run in Rumford, the Jason R. Sargent Memorial 5K in Otis and the Bath Heritage Days Road Race.
Then there’s the Goose Rocks Beach Association 5K in Kennebunkport and its 861 finishers in 2014, though that race — perhaps in a bit of marketing brilliance — is held on the Fifth of July though certainly it shares in the spirit of the weekend.
Each race has its unique attraction to runners, such as the Walter Hunt 3K, billed as “Maine’s Fastest Road Race” and one of the shorter races of its kind statewide.
The 35th annual edition of the 1.8-mile sprint along the Fourth of July parade route from Brewer to Bangor is set for 10:45 a.m. Saturday, with race-day registration beginning at 8 a.m.
The downhill course starts at the Brewer Auditorium and continues along Wilson Street until it crosses the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge into downtown Bangor. Runners turn right onto Main Street, then go to State Street before turning right onto Exchange Street and then across the footbridge to the finish line — just in time for the 11 a.m. scheduled start of the parade.
Both defending race champions are familiar faces on the Eastern Maine running scene. Adam Goode, a state representative from the Queen City as well as the Bangor High School cross-country coach, took overall honors last year with a time of 8 minutes, 53 seconds. Kristine Guaraldo of Brewer won the women’s division for the second time in three years in 10:53.
Bangor native Riley Masters, the former All-American from the University of Maine and the University of Oklahoma, now running for the Brooks Beasts Track Club out of Seattle, Washington, set the Hunt 3K course record of 8:02 in 2011.
West Buxton native Wendy Delan established the women’s course standard of 9:28 in 1987.