The Boston Marathon is a well known name, especially in this part of the United States. But what others may not know is there are tons of other marathons throughout the country that people travel all over to compete in. In a process similar to NASCAR, each runner’s statistics are recorded and ranked. To compete in the Boston Marathon, you must qualify at one of these smaller races.
The Millinocket Marathon & Half has been a staple of the community for years, quickly becoming a commonly looked forward to event in the town. It draws people from all over the Northeast and offers the benefit of being a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. The race was started in 2015 and has maintained if not grown in popularity ever since.
Speaking as a resident of the area, it’s a big deal around town for all. Downtown is shut down with roadblocks in place, a lot of local business run deals for the influx of tourists in the area for the event, and restaurants especially relish in the heavy business from the weekend. In speaking with the Chairman of Millinocket Town Council, Cody McEwen, he had this to say “The town benefits from the influx of runners and families here for the weekend of events. Businesses get a direct boost and the social impact on the community is a plus as well. The community is filled with people out and about during the weekend which is amazing.”
The race was created by Gary Allen to help the town out following the closure of the local paper mill. According to the website, the race has but one requirement: to support local businesses and contribute to the Katahdin region. McEwen went on “[Gary Allen] says he is all about starting ripple effects. He had a vision of this free-to-enter race to give back to the community.” Other than that, registration and participation is free. Allen also is the founder of the Mount Desert Island Marathon and the co-founder of the Great Cranberry Island 50k Ultra Marathon. The race is USATF certified, meaning it is able to be nationally ranked and times are tracked. The course itself consists of two laps of a loop beginning on Penobscot Avenue in Millinocket, commonly known as “downtown”. The track takes the runners up the Golden Road before crossing over to the Millinocket Lake Road and venturing back into town towards the starting line.
I was fortunate to be able to volunteer with KidsPeace to be at a water station on the Millinocket Lake Road during the race. It was an interesting experience being able to see the runners at their element. Some of the best comments I heard from passing runners were “Oh God, why did I do this?” and “Take a picture so it looks like I’m running harder than I am.” The most popular comment without a doubt was “Thank you.” It speaks to the character of people that participated in the event. Even when it came to cleaning up cups, the majority of the racers took their time to place their garbage in the designated areas.
Some participants competed for a charitable organization, carrying weighted packs and chainsaws during their jaunt. Others were out to purely have a good time and dressed in funny and unique outfits such as deer onesies and Santa Claus costumes. It was a one of a kind experience, to say the least. In addition to the other water stations setup throughout the route were people handing out samples of various spirits to keep the runners warm. After talking to some of the people walking the route, there was a fair amount of moonshine and Fireball Whiskey given out along the way in addition to more hydrating drinks such as Gatorade or that old fashioned, high quality H20.
The race started relatively small participant wise but has grown substantially in the short five year run. McEwen elaborated “It started with around 50 and has grown to over 2000. It is just incredible.” With Allen’s other creation, the Mount Desert Island Marathon, placing as the 99th largest marathon in the United States there’s great hope for the Millinocket Marathon in terms of growth. The mere existence of it has already assisted the community in boosting the economy as well as morale. With 2019’s race wrapped, the townsfolk are already anticipating 2020s race and continuing to expand and hopefully see another growth in turnout.