BELFAST, Maine — Saturday night was frosty and spangled with stars, but Rob Fowler of Morrill wasn’t safe at home, tucked into his warm bed.
Instead, the 43-year-old was running through the streets and trails of Belfast, hour after hour and mile after mile, in a bid to achieve a quixotic goal — to run a century, or 100 miles.
By 9 a.m. Sunday, he had completed almost 83 miles, and figured he had about four or five hours left to go. After a short pit stop by the Armistice Bridge to change his sneakers, gulp a little food and talk to his support crew, he was ready to tackle the next miles on his journey.
“I’m still moving,” he said. “I’ve been trying to do 100 miles for a while, but with COVID, there’s no races. So I made my own, and I’m in first place, so far.”
Fowler’s race wasn’t done to raise money for charity or to raise the profile of a cause. Instead, he had more personal — but no less compelling — motivations. He works as a nurse at Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast, where the disease, and the pandemic, “is all we think about,” he said. But he and his family are all avid runners — something that has seemed especially important this year.
“It’s a stress reliever,” he said.
Jasmine Fowler, his wife, who was heading up his support crew, said that normally, they do “a ton” of races together. They ran a lot this summer, and originally planned to tackle the 100-mile challenge together, but an injury sidelined her.
“It’s super fun to be on the crew,” she said.
Fowler began running at 4 p.m. on Saturday, doing loops from the Belfast Rail Trail to Kaler Road. After midnight, he switched to running through the city streets, because they are lit by streetlights.
“There were ups and downs,” he said, adding that one thing that helped a lot was that he wasn’t alone. “I had someone with me all night.”
Some ran with him for part of the way, while some cheered him on from the sidelines. Finally, the miles and hours passed and it was morning.
“The sunrise was absolutely gorgeous,” Fowler said.
Sunday morning, his friend Lindsey Piper of Belfast ran with him for about an hour.
“These are my running buddies,” she said. “And although I don’t understand, I support their crazy goals. I know he’s been wanting this, and if my company and new energy can be helpful to him, then that is great.”
When Rob Fowler crosses the finish line of his century race, there won’t be a tape to burst through. There won’t even be any competition. But there will be people to clap, and a homemade medal to put around his neck, fashioned — perhaps out of granite — by a friend who is a stone worker.
“This is a whole collective effort,” Jasmine Fowler said, adding that her husband’s century race made a nice change from the intensity of the political and pandemic news. “This is a fun, safe thing.”