September 19, 2018
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Marathon draws racers, money to rebounding mill town

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Updated:

MILLINOCKET, Maine — At least 1,155 runners — double last year’s number — ran the Golden Road in the third-annual Millinocket Marathon and Half, its organizer said Sunday.

The final number of finishers likely won’t be available until Monday as the race’s timekeeper, 3C Race Productions of New Hampshire, is still manually compiling results from the 13.1- and 26.2-mile races, race organizer Gary Allen said.

Not that Allen was complaining: 3C donated about $5,000 worth of professional services to the race, which Allen began in 2015. His goal: to offer runners a rare opportunity to gaze upon Mount Katahdin as they trekked along the nation’s longest private road in exchange for the fiscal fill-up their presence would bring to this former mill town.

The race’s winner, 49-year-old Robert Ashby of Brunswick, called the race “a breath of absolutely fresh air” for its view along the 97-mile Golden Road, which runs from Millinocket to Quebec.

A first-time entrant, Ashby finished in 2 hours, 47 minutes and 44 seconds.

[Marathon pumps life into Maine region wracked by mill closures]

“I ran a lot of marathons that had great scenery and some where you run the whole race and all you see is cars and traffic,” Ashby said Saturday. “You have spectacular scenery here, from the mountain to the ponds and the beaver dams. It’s a little hillier than I thought.”

Jacob Bloom finished second, in 2:52:53, and Michael Gamache was third, with a time of 2:59:34, in the 26.2-mile race. Sarah Mulcahy won the women’s race in 2:56:06. Susan Clark and Leah Frost followed in 3:01:41 and 3:04:23, respectively.

Last year’s race drew 953 preregistrants and 592 participants.

Dozens of the runners were still coming in well after dark Saturday, after 3C had to leave. Volunteers sent finisher data to the company, Allen said.

Runners from as far away as San Jose, Calif., and Salt Lake City, Utah, came to Maine to participate in the marathon.

[Opinion: I won the Millinocket Marathon, but that wasn’t the goal]

Town cafes and restaurants hummed with business starting Friday as racers filled area hotels. The event, resident Teri Peterson said, brought more than money to Millinocket, which had a population of 4,506 as of the last census.

“It brings happiness and fun, especially with the mill gone,” Peterson said. “This is much bigger than last year’s race. I think last year’s surprised people. This year, more people and businesses are trying to be a part of it.”

The marathon “is an example of what a creative approach to economic development can do,” said Jessica Masse, whose Designlab graphic design and marketing agency handles economic development for Millinocket and Lincoln.

Besides drawing people to Millinocket, events like the marathon show area investors such as The Nature Conservancy, Outdoor Sports Institute, Northern Forest Center and Butler Foundation that Millinocket is serious about taking risks to improve itself, Masse said.

A marathon in mid-December in one of the iciest places in North America was a pretty bold idea until Allen and more than 50 volunteers pulled it off, Masse said.

“It builds the Millinocket brand as a place where you can find opportunity and adventure, and organizations are taking notice,” Masse said.

It drew New York native Matt Delaney to town this year, a half-marathon runner who revitalized the town’s dormant library by raising more than $600,000 in grants since Jan. 1 — including $24,000 raised by the marathon. The marathon contribution includes a matching $12,000 grant from the nonprofit Next Generation Foundation,

His renovations to the library will make it “a national model for the library of the future,” she said.

“What is clear at this point is that a huge company isn’t going to save this town. It’s small ball,” Masse added. “The path forward isn’t going to be a straight from A to Z. It is going to take creative thinking, wacky thinking, from people like Gary Allen, among others, to help us rebuild.”

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