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home > races/results > usa: maine > the mount desert island marathon – one of the most beautiful places in the world.

The Mount Desert Island Marathon – one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The MDI marathon has become a premier destination race for lovers of great races in beautiful places.

The Mount Desert Island Marathon – one of the most beautiful places in the world.

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By Christopher Russell
Posted Sunday, 18 June, 2006

There is a place where forest-covered granite mountains meet the churning Atlantic Ocean. It is a magical place. It is honeycombed with secret paths, rocky beaches in hidden coves, granite outcrops, freshwater ponds, carriage roads and deep forests. The glorious riot of deciduous color paints the New England fall. The salt smell of the sea mixes with the scent of looming evergreens. Come join us for a run of overwhelming scenery. The Mount Desert Island Marathon will transport you through time to the unspoiled natural beauty of coastal Maine.

On the rocky North East coast of the USA you will find a rugged beauty of a marathon waiting to embrace you. Mount Desert Island has a long history and a long history of running. It was and is a summering place for the rich and famous. On Sunday October 15th, 2006 this marathon that was named “the most scenic marathon in the USA” by Eco-Marathon and “one of the 50 great US marathons” in From Fairbanks to Boston rolls out the Red Lobster carpet for its 5th year.

MDI is a spectacular course. The scenery is fantastic, the route is challenging, and the volunteers are wonderful... there’s everything to love about the race. This is one marathon where the journey truly is its own reward. I plan to keep coming back year after year.
-T. G. from St. Louis, MO

The fantastically scenic course is wrapped in superb organization and support hosted by Crow Athletics (one of the more fun running clubs you will ever find). The organizers are not just scratching a starting line in the wilderness they make sure you get the support and amenities you expect for your race. This is a well run event with a committed local organization that will wrap your experience in the warmth of their professionalism. The race directors are veteran marathoners and know how important it is for you, the runner, to have everything perfect when you show up on race day. The race directors and committee take this challenge on with personal accountability to your benefit.

Set your schedule now to plan a week or a weekend around October 15th to enjoy one of the most beautiful marathons in the world.

A course like no other
This was my 10th marathon and yours simply blows away every single one that I’ve done to date.
Gary M. Galloway, Raleigh, NC

The Mount Desert Island Marathon is a point-to-point course that starts in downtown Bar Harbor which is a famous vacation destination. Bar Harbor is also a destination much sought after with its picturesque fishing village nestled in against the ocean. Shops and restaurants line the streets where you could procure a painted lobster buoy for your rumpus room or eat your fill of seafood.

The first 6 miles of the course wind through a picturesque valley between mountains. The feeling is quiet and serene in the early morning October calm. The running is peaceful and fairly flat, allowing you to ease into your marathon experience and soak up the scenery.

From 6 to 8 miles you pass by vacation homes of the well-heeled. Mount Desert Island has always been home to vacationing rich and famous. From the earliest items the Fords and Rockefellers summered here at their ‘cottages’. Currently Martha Stewart vacations in a home that used used to be owned by Edsel Ford. These homes may require a certain level of affluence but the scenery is free and you can feel it cleanse you as you move into the middle miles of the race.

This was one of the most enjoyable races I’ve ever completed... The overall weekend was fantastic. Every aspect of the race from the expo to the showers at the finish was well run... I am already looking forward to a great weekend getaway next October.
-John Damen from Cambridge, MA

Between 8.5 miles and 11.5 miles you have the ocean on your left with sweeping marine vistas and a series of magnificent historical gardens on your right. You’ll see wonderful views of Seal Harbor.

You will be inspired and you will need inspiration because this is one of the tougher sections of the course with a series of 3 hard hills. The Mount Desert Island Marathon is unapologetic about its hills. This is not a race around the local parking lot. This is an exploration of natural New England. And New England, at its heart, has some hills. Don’t be afraid. The hills are not too bad and, hey, it’s a marathon folks, it’s supposed to be hard! The hills lend a welcoming contour augmenting, the scenery with multi-level views. Those who have run the race report that their times were no slower than normal mainly because the early hills kept them from running silly.

Runners consistently report that the course runs faster than the elevation chart would suggest. It is a certified Boston qualifier if you want to worry about such things, but if I run it this year I’m going to take it slow and soak up the scenery! All you have to do is hold that picture of boiled lobster in your head and it will carry you through.

From mile 11.5 to 18 the course is fairly flat and you can rest your stride. You will come down the main street of the little town of Northeast Harbor. At mile 17 you turn onto Sargeant Drive. This road runs along side Somes Sound, the only natural fjord on the East Coast. This breathtaking view will pull you along. To your left the only a row of granite coping stones will separate you from the fjord. To your right the mountains rise. This section is relatively flat and allows you to catch your breath for the final push to the finish.

At mile 20 you run through the town of Somesville, the first settlement on Mount Desert Island established in 1761, and one of six villages that the race bisects in its ramble. It is here that you make the turn towards the finish. The terrain rises up a few hundred feet in a slow incline. You will be surrounded by the orange and yellow of late season New England foliage. Mountains rise up on both sides and keep you company for this last ascent.

Mile 25 is the highest point on the course and from there is all downhill into Southwest Harbor for the finish. You will be greeted by a good size crowd, showers and free massages. It’s a course like no other you’ll ever run. It’s an experience you owe yourself. If you are sick of running generic highway marathons get yourself up to Bar Harbor in October and run MDI.

Last year’s results
In 2005 there were 510 finishers. This year they are capping the race at 1,000 entries and are already (at press time) more than half way there.

Last year both the male and female first place finishers were locals. Bar Harbor’s 27 year old Judson Cake won overall with a strong 2:32:14, setting a new course record. It was a time he was happy with given the blustery conditions. 24 year old local Lara Judson, from Mount Desert, won the women’s race with a 3:26:06. It’s interesting to note that she holds the women’s record set in 2003. This is the only race she runs and does it just for fun. Last year also heralded the first time there were wheelchair participants, a first for a Maine marathon.

It was a heck of a blustery New England day with gusty winds and some rain. I ran a race a bit south of Mount Desert Island on that same day and got blown off my qualifying time. At the MDI Marathon participants soldiered through and had a great time anyway. Gary Allen, the race director told me good weather is ‘guaranteed’ this year!

Just couldn’t let another day go by without telling you how much we enjoyed running the MDI Marathon. It’s on our calendar for 2006.
- John and Joan Lavin

The A-list, they’ve got celebrities in Maine!
Since she lives there, Martha Stewart was more than happy to be the honorary race starter and present the finisher medals. I don’t know if she whips up any of the finish line food, but she’ll probably be out there meeting and greeting with the locals again this year. Also speaking last year was ‘duel in the sun’ legend Dick Beardsley. He has a conflict this year but race directors are promising a surprise celebrity to take his place. This race is in its 5th year and starting to get its stride.

Thar’s runners in them hills!
There must be something in the water Down East. There is an extremely strong running tradition and running community in the Bar Harbor – Mount Desert Island area. There are at least two running clubs that send many runners down to Boston each spring to run in that other marathon. Last year local runner Evan Graves of Crow Athletics came in 48th at Boston in 2:30 in only his second marathon.

Race director Gary Allen attributes the high per capita runner headcount to the almost ideal training conditions. “We’ve got the hills and the carriage roads in Acadia National Park. The only thing we are missing is the altitude. I’m surprised more elites don’t train here.” Acadia National Park encompasses over 47,000 acres of granite-domed mountains, woodlands, lakes and ponds, and ocean shoreline. Intertwined through all of this are 57 miles of hard packed gravel carriage roads constructed by John D. Rockefeller Jr. between 1913 and 1940.

What this means for you, the runner is that not only will you get to do some exploring but this local host community knows and appreciates the marathon in their midst. The crowds aren’t huge, but they are knowledgeable and won’t be mad at you for filling the streets!

New sponsor…
What do you think of when someone says “Maine”? Lobster right? I love Lobster. That’s why it is so fitting that Red Lobster has signed on to be the title sponsor for this year’s event. I don’t know if they will be handing out boiled lobster instead of Gatorade at the water stops, but a major sponsor will allow the race to grow and serve you better!

Getting there
“Ok Chris, I want to run, but how do I get there?” I’m glad you asked. Use your favorite mapping program to get driving directions. Coming north up 95 it’s about 4 hours from the New Hampshire border, or, depending on the time of day, less than 5 hours out of Boston. You can drive down from Quebec also and there is bus service up from Boston as well.

If you’re coming in from the east, you’re going to need a boat. One cool option is to take “the Cat” ferry ship from Nova Scotia. If you must fly, you can catch a commuter plane into the Hancock County Airport in Trenton, ME, or fly into Bangor, ME, which is about an hour away or any of the other New England airports are within a ½ day drive. A new discount airline is also flying into Portland, which is only a three hour drive up the Maine coast on scenic Route 1 which passes thru many picturesque coastal villages.

Make the trip – you won’t regret it!
The ocean vistas were stunning. Supporters were encouraging and helpful, and the course was VERY WELL MARKED... Don’t miss this fabulous marathon opportunity. Thanks, Gary and all, for an incredible journey! -Deborah Ingram

You never know what life is going to bring so treat yourself to this luscious race course in October. For all you folks working on your 50 states use this one to check the Maine box! The cool crisp Maine air will bring you to revelations and epiphanies that you have never imagined. Come on up Down East and put some joy back in your racing.



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