Competitors in the 5K of the Commit to Get Fit road races run through Broadway Park on Sunday during the inaugural event sponsored by St. Joseph Healthcare. Credit: Dave Koffman Photo

Casey Briggs had not run a road race before, opting instead for other routes to her fitness goals.

But when her friend, Melanie Carney of Hampden, suggested they enter one of Sunday morning’s Commit to Get Fit races at Broadway Park in Bangor, the 27-year-old South Portland resident figured it was worth trying.

Long after she completed the 10-kilometer mix of road and trail, Briggs was still smiling.

“I usually go more for [fitness] boot camp training, but this was a great day for this,” said Briggs, who crossed the finish line in just over an hour.

Briggs was just one example of the wide diversity among the approximately 500 registrants for the 10K run or 5K run-walk at this event hosted by St. Joseph Healthcare.

The day began with a kids fun run around the scenic park, followed by older participants with running experience ranging from first-timers to marathon veterans opting for the 5K or 10K. There also was a virtual 5K for those who couldn’t make it to the race.

“It’s small steps,” said Mary Prybylo, president of St. Joseph’s Healthcare and part of a team of senior hospital administrators known as the “Wacky Warriors” that participated in the 5K.

“If someone can only go part way, or even if they’re just out here standing and volunteering, that’s a great step for that person.”

Nick Wheeler, 33, of Bangor was the first 10K runner across the finish line in 34 minutes, 31 seconds. He edged Patrick Caron of Needham, Massachusetts, who was second in 34:52.

“I haven’t really been racing much over the last five years, just running every day to stay healthy,” said Wheeler, Maine’s fastest finisher at the 2012 Boston Marathon. “I thought this looked like a great event.”

Danielle Johnson was the top women’s 10K finisher and placed ninth overall in 44:41, with Katie Snow next in 45:30.

Wheeler said the intown course, which took runners along the Kenduskeag Stream trail to Husson University before returning to the finish line at Broadway Park, offered something for all runners.

“It’s not too difficult, fairly flat and lightly rolling,” he said. “It’s a course that really caters to everyone because if you like roads there are roads and if you like running on trails it has trails.”

The 22-year-old Caron, who is spending time this fall running the trails and peaks of Acadia National Park, appreciated the variety within the race field.

“Whatever gets you outdoors, whatever gets you moving, I’m all about that whether it’s running, hiking or biking,” he said. “It definitely makes you more of a joyful person as well. You go into the day feeling like you accomplished something, and that’s why I run.

“It’s great to see a lot of other people out there, and it’s inspiring to see beginner runners out trying something new.”

Bangor Daily News President and Chief Operating Officer Todd Benoit and BDN Maine Focus Editor Erin Rhoda, both of Bangor, posted the fastest 5K times. Benoit was the overall winner in 20:23 and Rhoda was the first woman and fourth overall among the 249 finishers for the 3.1-mile distance in 24:52.

“We thought if we could get 250 runners [combined] for the races it would be an amazing success and we blew that number away a couple of weeks ago,” said Brad Ryder, owner of Epic Sports in downtown Bangor and a member of the St. Joseph Healthcare board of directors.

“Not everybody is up to a run or they may never have run a 5K, but at least they’re out walking and the walking may lead up to a run one day. We’re not looking for the extreme athletes. We’re looking for people just to participate and realize, ‘I can do this.’”

The Commit to Get Fit event was a year in the making and had dual purposes.

“We really wanted to encourage our patients and people in our primary care to take the step to become more fit,” Prybylo said. “Whether that was to change their diet or just think about exercising, this has been a year-round process to encourage patients to do that and these races are a piece of that.”

The event also serves as a fundraiser for St. Joseph’s Hospital’s SAFE [Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners] Nurse program that supports victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking.

“These are nurses with special training and certification who do a tremendous job,” Prybylo said. “They’re on call 24-7 and spend a lot of their own time working with people who are victims of domestic violence or some other sort of violence as well as being out in the community educating people about some of the safety issues out there.”

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...