BANGOR, Maine — Among the 517 runners who completed Saturday’s 35th annual Walter Hunt Memorial Fourth of July 3K were nearly just as many different reasons for participating in this unique road race.
Among the more popular motivations are the race’s late-morning start, its brevity at 1.8 miles and the chance to reunite with old friends home for the holiday or summer vacation.
But the most popular attraction is the course itself from Wilson Street in Brewer across the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge and into downtown Bangor — or more specifically the people who line both sides of the route in anticipation of the lengthy Independence Day parade that follows the race.
There’s clearly no sense of the loneliness of the long-distance runner here.
“I was very surprised with how fast it was, and also with all the people lining the streets. I was under the impression that running actually has fans,” said 16-year-old John Hassett of Castine, who won the Class C state championship in the 3,200-meter run last spring as a sophomore at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill.
“Everyone was clapping for you as you ran down the street. It was so cool. I’ve never raced in a race like this before so I was very happy to be here.”
Adam Goode, the 31-year-old state legislator from Bangor and the cross country coach at Bangor High School, won the Hunt 3K for the second straight year with a time of 8 minutes, 30 seconds.
The veteran distance runner — who was the second-fastest Maine finisher at this year’s Boston Marathon as well as the winner of last weekend’s challenging Tour de Lac 10-miler in Bucksport — said he also appreciated the crowd support.
But he was competing for one fan in particular — his 84-year-old grandmother, Audrey Dyer.
“I first came to this race maybe once in high school and then I started coming in 2004, and my grandmother always comes to watch,” said Goode. “There’s a group of family that sits at the end the bridge, that’s where she is every year and it’s the only time she sees me run in a race so the stakes are very high and it’s always cool to see her and run over to say ‘Hi’ afterwards.”
Hassett chased Goode from the starting line and kept pace for the better part of the first largely downhill mile, which Goode completed in 4:27.
“(Hassett) ran with me for that first mile,” said Goode, “and then I had that incentive to get across the bridge to see my grandmother.”
Indeed, Goode pulled away as he crossed the bridge and passed family members before turning onto Main Street in Bangor and running alone to the finish.
“I think Adam just turned it on,” said Hassett. “This was the first time I’ve seen him, but he’s ridiculously good.”
Alex Beals, 21, caught and passed Hassett as they turned onto the footbridge that crosses the Kenduskeag Stream to reach the finish line and placed second overall in 9:02.
Hassett was next in 9:07.4, with Jonathan Stanhope of Bangor (9:18) and Ian Fraser of Brewer (9:31) completing the top five finishers.
Kaitlin Saulter of Hermon, an 18-year-old University of Maine student who competes in soccer and track and field for the Black Bears, won the women’s division and placed 21st overall in 10:29.3.
“I was just out for fun and kind of competing against myself to see how well I could do,” said Saulter, who will be a sophomore on the Orono campus this fall. “I like to go with 5:30 miles and my first mile was 5:27 so I felt like I was right on, that it was a good pace for myself.”
Saulter, who was second in the women’s division a year ago, improved on her 2014 time by 35 seconds and admitted that she, too, got a boost from the crowd.
“When I was running down the street in Bangor I heard someone yell out, ‘First girl, you go girl,’” said Saulter. “It made me smile.”
Katherine Collins of Winterport finished second among the women’s finishers in 11:42, followed by Heather Knowles of Brewer (11:48.2) and two of the younger runners in the race, 9-year-old Ruth White of Orono and 15-year-old Tessa Yardley of Bangor.
White, who will be a fourth-grader at the Asa C. Adams Elementary School in Orono this fall, placed 53rd overall in 11.48.5 while Yardley, a rising sophomore at Bangor High School, was 63rd in 12:01.