CRANBERRY ISLES, Maine — A local man known for covering long distances was running Monday to make it to the nation’s Capitol, but not because he was trying to get to President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Gary Allen, founder and director of the Mount Desert Island Marathon and well known in the running world for the length of his career, started his latest trek two weeks ago at the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. His goal was to run the 700 miles to Washington, D.C., arriving on Inauguration Day, and to raise money for a few charities as he did it.
Winter in the Northeast does not provide ideal weather for running along the side of roads, but Allen is used to running in all sorts of conditions. He lives on Great Cranberry Island, off MDI, where the longest road is only two miles long, and runs the Boston Marathon twice each year, once in the actual race and again by himself along the race course every New Year’s Day.
Allen, 56, has run in more than 80 marathons, 65 of them in less than three hours, according to information posted on his “Maine2DC” website.
Allen has been running to Washington by himself, though he is being accompanied by a small group of people in a support vehicle.
On Monday Allen was outside Baltimore in Hanover, Md., when he took a cellphone call to talk about his journey. After gulping down a few sips of water, he resumed running as he spoke.
The weather, he said, has been relatively mild.
“The run is going good. I’m getting there, mile by mile,” he said. “I was prepared for anything.”
People often use weather as an excuse to avoid doing something outside, he added.
“I’m not one of those people,” Allen said.
Allen’s goal was to run 50 miles a day, something he said he was neither sure he could or could not do. Given his progress over the past two weeks, he has averaged pretty close to his daily goal.
He said he expected to arrive at the Capitol building Monday night.
Allen said that despite his marathon career, he has never done anything along these lines before. He has run ultramarathons, which are road races more than 26.2 miles long, but his run from Maine to Washington, D.C., is the equivalent of about 15 such super-endurance races, he said.
“This is my fifteenth day of running,” Allen said. ‘I’ve always admired people who have done things like this. I’m not getting any younger.”
Allen said the run has been a challenge, but that he has tried to focus only on the section of road immediately ahead. If he thinks too much about how much he has run or how much he has to go, he said, it becomes overwhelming.
“I can’t think about what’s behind me. I can’t think about what’s ahead of me,” Allen said.
The purpose of his run is two-fold, he added. One is to inspire people to “get off the couch and do something,” he said, and the other is to raise money for good causes.
He said he planned the run to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project and for American Cancer Society before the Dec. 14 shooting deaths of 20 pupils and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He said adding shooting victims to his fundraising list was an obvious choice.
“I don’t know if money can fix broken hearts, but it’s the least I can do,” Allen said.
Allen said his support team has raised the possibility, after his run is done, of meeting with members of Maine’s congressional delegation before he heads back to Maine. He said he would be honored, but that his main goal is just to make it to the Capitol building on Monday.
When he arrives, he said, the first thing he likely will do is see about getting a cup of hot coffee or tea.
“I kind of like it out here, [but] I’m cold and damp,” he said.