Nearly 1,500 runners have registered for Sunday’s 32nd annual Sugarloaf Marathon and 15-kilometer road races.
Six-hundred-thirty-seven marathoners are scheduled to leave the starting line at Cathedral Pines Campground on State Route 27 in Eustis and make their way to the finish line in downtown Kingfield in Franklin County, according to Sugarloaf Mountain spokesman Ethan Austin.
Another 840 runners have signed up for the 15K, which begins at the Sugarloaf Mountain access road and follows the final 9.3 miles of the marathon route.
The total for the two races will top the current record for the two races of 1,365 in 2012, despite the return last year after a 26-year absence of the Maine Coast Marathon from Kennebunk to Biddeford the week before the Sugarloaf event.
This year’s Maine Coast Marathon was held last Sunday with 620 finishers.
“We had a big year in 2012, and then we dipped a bit last year and thought that race was eating into our field a bit,” said Austin. “But our numbers are way up again this year, so who knows?”
The Sugarloaf Marathon is Maine’s oldest continuously run marathon and also ranks as one of the nation’s fastest.
Eric Rudolph of Ellsworth is the defending men’s champion with a time of 2 minutes, 31.26 seconds, while Nicole Santos of West Lebanon, N.H., won the 2013 Sugarloaf Marathon women’s division in 2:55.41.
P.J. Gorneault of Caribou won last year’s Sugarloaf 15K in 48:50 while Jenna Krajewski of Hallowell was the women’s champion in 55:36.4.
A new team distance running event will debut July 25, with the inaugural Down East Sunrise Trail Relay stretching from Washington Junction in Ellsworth to the finish line on the shores of the Bay of Fundy on Moose Island at Eastport.
Teams of four to eight runners will run through the night and into the next day, handing off at various junctions where the trail enters towns or crosses roads like Tunk Lake Road, Unionville Crossing, Jonesboro Station or Rocky Lake Crossing.
The teams will be covering more than 103 miles from start to finish.
The event is the brainchild of the organizers of the Mount Desert Island Marathon and the Great Cranberry Island Ultra Marathon, which recently was named National Road Race of the Year by the Road Runners Club of America.
The event will raise funds for the Sunrise Trail Coalition, a group that helps maintain the trail that is the easternmost section of the East Coast Greenway from Key West, Florida., to Calais. Funds also will be raised for an Eastport-area charitable organization to be determined.
“We are thrilled to bring all the good we know running brings with it to all of Down East Maine,” said race organizer Gary Allen in a news release.
Crow Athletics, founded in 1991, is the host running club behind the first all-night team relay ever held in the state.
The Down East Sunrise Trail is a well-maintained rails-to-trail gravel surface closed to motor vehicles, though bicycles and ATVs are welcome. Runners will need to be self-sufficient, carry fluids, and be well equipped to run alone on sections that range from 4 to 10 miles while their support vehicles drive to the next handoff zone.
Individual runners may claim a spot in the relay by registering a team online and then recruiting others to join. Visit http://destrelay.crowathletics.com/ for more information or to register.
Falmouth’s Sheri Piers, the fourth-fastest women’s masters runner and 31st-place women’s finisher overall at last month’s Boston Marathon, will be among the favorites in the 40-and-older division of the 36th Freihofer’s Run for Women 5K to be held May 31 at Albany, N.Y.
Trained by three-time Freihofer’s Run for Women champion Benita Willis, the 42-year-old Piers battled Poland’s Dorota Gruca in 2013 before finishing second last year in a time of 17:25.
Piers finished this year’s Boston Marathon in 2:42:40 to rank as the second-fastest woman from Maine, eight seconds behind Erica Jesseman of Scarborough.
On the 30th anniversary of her gold-medal win in the inaugural women’s Olympic Marathon at the Los Angeles Games, longtime Run for Women participant Joan Benoit Samuelson, 56, of Freeport will return to this year’s Freihofer’s event.
Another woman with Maine connections is expected to be among the top contenders in the women’s open division of the race.
Michelle Frey Lillenthal, who recently relocated to Portland from Minneapolis, was the top American and sixth-place finisher overall at the 2012 Freihofer’s, then was the third American and 11th-place overall finisher last year in 16:30.
Lillenthal, 32, is a seven-time Iowa state champion who earned All-Big-Ten honors at the University of Wisconsin. She finished fourth last October at the USA Championships held during the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis and achieved the U.S. Olympic “A” standard to qualifying for the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials.