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home > races/results > usa: maine > mount desert island marathon in down east maine—enjoy a spectacular, breathtaking course and a new relay

Mount Desert Island Marathon in Down East Maine—Enjoy a Spectacular, Breathtaking Course and a New Relay
It just doesn’t get any better than this: Acadia National Park with ocean views, a fjord, lakes, mountains, cliffs and bluffs, Maine forests, villages and harbors, and fantastic fall foliage.

Mount Desert Island Marathon in Down East Maine—Enjoy a Spectacular, Breathtaking Course and a New Relay

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By Skip Cleaver
Posted Thursday, 24 September, 2009

The Mount Desert Island Marathon is the real deal. It is marathon running as it was meant to be. This will be the eighth running, and will go on Sunday, October 18, 2009. It is one of the most beautiful, scenic, awe-inspiring, and challenging courses in the hemisphere. The island sits on the edge of the continent, has the only fjord on the east coast; it has 26 mountains-ten over 1,000 feet—and they make for spectacular views at the edge of the sea. And there are 26 lakes or ponds on the island; all contributing to your 26 miles of memorable accomplishment. But for all its ruggedness, most of this course goes around and between those mountains and the highest point on the course is only 243 feet above the ocean.

This point-to-point adventure tours scenic vistas and quintessential New England fishing villages, harbors, pink granite cliffs, and a variety of landscapes unmatched by most other marathons. This year runners who don’t want to go the whole 26.2 will have a chance to participate with the two-person relay (each runs half) or the three-person relay with legs of 8.5, 10.1, and 7.6. Additionally they will once again host the Public Safety Five-person relay where police and fire departments can contest for bragging rights with team competition modeled after the New York Marathon.

In addition to this tremendous course and the awesome natural beauty of this island, this marathon is exceptionally well organized. Every detail is covered and runners really do come first—guests as well as participants. Race Director Gary Allen knows marathons and has run 71, 56 of those with times under three hours. It seems every time he runs one he is looking for keys to improving this one. And he has a terrific committee and committed crew as well, evident in all aspects of the race. They are not looking to be a marathon that is “flat and fast”, a worn cliché. They are simply trying to be the best possible, providing each participant with a truly memorable experience.

There is a walking division and an early start for them and slower runners, which allows everyone to finish in reasonable time.

The awards are unique hefty carved granite stones, and are given to the top three overall and the top three in five-year age groups through 80+. Also unique, there will be no awards ceremony except for the top three women and men. All other age group awards will be given out as results are posted. That is, when winners see their division posted they may claim their prize at race headquarters (they will not be mailed). This way there are no long waits involved while the last of the pack finishes.

There are many amenities too, including a very efficient shuttle service for both runners and spectators to and from the start and finish. And of course there is a bag check and wonderfully staffed fluid stations every two miles with both water and Gatorade and the most enthusiastic volunteers, and much more.

Dick Beardsley of Boston Marathon fame (2:08:54, “Duel in the Sun”) ran this course and said, “It is one of the best marathons anywhere, I highly recommend it. And there was high praise from ESPN, “The most scenic Marathon in North America.”

Expo and Number Pick up
There will be an expo and race registration/packet pick up at the host hotel, the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel and Conference Center in Bar Harbor, which is very near the start. Please keep in mind that there will be no race day registration and no race day number pick up. The Expo hours will be Friday, October 16 from noon to 8:00 p.m. and Saturday October 17 from 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m.

Pre-race Dinner—Mile 26 Café
There will be an excellent pre-race pasta dinner held at the Mile 26 Café (Mount Desert Island High School) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 17, giving runners a brief tour of this beautiful island. The dinner is a real treat, run by the MDI High School Music Boosters as a fundraiser for the benefit of the school music programs. And there will also be a raffle, awards, and other festivities. Please see the Race Website at for reservations, directions and other details.

Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi, was established in 1916 as Sieur de Monts National Monument. It was given National Park status in 1919 as Lafayette National Park; it was changed to Acadia National Park in 1929.

Acadia was a French Province and series of colonies, including much of Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. It was a battleground between the British and French from the early 1600’s until 1763 when the French ceded all of Canada and Maine following their defeat in the French and Indian War (Seven Years War). The French Acadians were expelled in 1755.

Mount Cadillac was named for Antoine de LaMothe Cadillac (1658-1730), a French trader and explorer who lived in the area before moving west to found the city of Detroit. He was later the governor of French Louisiana.

Mount Cadillac is the highest point directly on the Atlantic coast (1,532 feet), and receives the first morning rays of sunshine in the USA from October 7 through March 6. The mountain is the only one in Acadia with an auto road to the summit. It affords a spectacular 360-degree view, including Mount Katahdin and the Bay of Fundy, not to mention all of MDI and Penobscot Bay.

Some of the other mountains on the island include Sargent (1,373), Dorr (1,270), Pemetic (1,248), Penobscot (1,194), and Champlain (1,058).

Mount Desert Island
Despite the name, this island is no desert, but one of the richest and most beautiful spots in eastern North America. Sailing along this rugged coast Samuel de Champlain gave the island its current name, calling it “L’Isle des Monts Deserts”, which means island of barren mountains. The highest peaks were bald granite even then, in 1604. The French also settled the region in that year, 16 years before the Plymouth Colony. The Native American name for the island was Pemetic, or sloping land. It is where mountains meet the sea.

Mount Desert Island is a true Island, the largest rock-based island on the East Coast. It is home to ten mountains over 1,000 feet, including Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the Atlantic north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It has pink marble cliffs, and the highest headlands on the Atlantic. The only true fjord on the Atlantic Coast is located here. And it is home to Acadia National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi.

Mount Desert Island is one of 1,300 islands on the coast of Maine. It is roughly 14 by 8 miles, or approximately 107 square miles, 65 of which are Acadia National Park (47,000 acres). Nestled between Blue Hill Bay to the west and Frenchman Bay to the east. In addition to these ruggedly beautiful mountains, it has breathtaking pink granite cliffs, lakes, natural harbors, and woodlands to the shoreline—unbelievable scenery in every direction. It is 37 miles southeast of the City of Bangor.

Along with the marathon course and the various other roads, the island boasts “the most scenic seaside roads in the eastern US”. These include the National Park auto loop (27 miles). There are 44 miles of graded carriage roads (ideal for running or biking [no motors allowed] with 17 unique stone bridges), and another 120 miles of trails for running and hiking.

This island is a runner’s paradise. For cross training use the hiking trails and climb the 26 mountains in the park, or kayak the 26 deep blue lakes—three of them over 100 feet deep. Yes, twenty-six seems to be the magic number here.

In addition to the only true fjord, MDI has the highest headlands on the East Coast, where the enormous energy of the Atlantic is constantly battering the 420-million year old cliffs with a pounding roar.

MDI is a haven for wildlife with 52 species of mammals, including whales, dolphins, and seals, often visible. There will likely be deer along the course. There are 273 species of birds, including at least six types of hawks, ospreys, and cormorants, along with 52 species of fish.

Run Here and You Will Have Memories that Last a Lifetime
The MDI Marathon combines extraordinary natural beauty and offers one of the most scenic distance runs in the USA with both the full marathon and marathon relay.
This is one of the most beautiful marathon courses in the United States. And it is exceptionally well organized. It is presented in the best possible running tradition—a challenging and unbelievably gorgeous point-to-point. The setting is spectacular Down East Maine with a course around a storied island everyone wants to visit.

The Carnegies, Rockefellers, Astors, Morgans, Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, and many other affluent people who could go anywhere in the world, chose to spend their summers on this island. Now you have reasons to go to MDI too; to run in this gorgeous place and experience the challenge, exhilaration, camaraderie, and sense of accomplishment of this memorable event.



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