MILLINOCKET, Maine — It’s a long time until Dec. 9, but the Millinocket Marathon and Half has become one of the country’s fastest-growing marathons by attracting more than 1,500 online registrations as of Tuesday, its organizer said.
Organizer Gary Allen said he was pleased that the next-scheduled race is attracting so much attention but acknowledged that registration is no guarantee of attendance. The 2016 race had 963 registrants at one point but drew an estimated 550 runners to its second edition on Dec. 10.
Almost constant freezing winds and zero-degree temperatures likely discouraged some runners from attending, but the event was still hailed as a success for having drawn an estimated 1,500 attendees.
Allen, a Cranberry Isles resident who also founded the Mount Desert Island Marathon, waived entrance fees to the Millinocket 26.2- and 13.1-mile races when he launched them in 2015, but he encouraged runners to come to the region and spend money freely. His goal is to help the region recover from two mill closures that have devastated the area’s economy.
Allen told the Town Council during a meeting last week that the 1,500th registrant is from Switzerland.
“Whether this young lady actually shows up or not does not matter, but that people in Europe are talking about Millinocket is a win for the region,” Allen said.
Allen said he expected the number would continue to rise. The marathon has sprung up around Millinocket much the way that the town earned its nickname, The Magic City, more than a century ago — by coming together around what was then a fledgling paper industry.
“This marathon is the magic marathon. It has absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with all of you. This is your thing,” Allen told councilors during the Jan. 12 meeting.
They applauded Allen’s efforts, with Chairman Michael Madore saying that Allen’s enthusiasm for the region is infectious. Allen came to the meeting to accept a portrait of the top three racers crossing the finish line.
Painted by Suzanne Savage Brewer of Sydney, the 8-inch-by-8-inch oil on cradled panel will hang in the town office. Allen will get a double-sized print of the painting. Prints also are available for sale for $125 at North Light Gallery, gallery owner Marsha Donahue said. A portion of the sale proceeds will benefit the Millinocket Memorial Library.