Maine Coast Half-Marathon and One Lucky Guy!
The inaugural running of the Maine Coast Half Marathon will be held on September 23, 2007, marking the introduction of the only all women’s race of this distance in New England—almost all women, that is.
Posted Monday, 20 August, 2007
No, this race is not exclusively women, because it does include the One Lucky Guy category. The One Lucky Guy will receive not only encouragement and support from spectators and officials alike to finish the race; he will also by default be guaranteed an overall victory in the men’s division. In any event, the local scholarship fund that is the recipient of the OLG entry fee, is at least an equal winner since more than 200 OLG “wannabees” have already paid the $10 lottery for a shot at the surefire title.
The race directors of this event are the husband and wife team of Mike and Linda St. Laurent, who together have a total of roughly 60 years running and racing experience. Over the years, they’ve listened to what people like and don’t like about races. As a result, this co-directorship has given significant thought to those details that make or break a good experience for all racers. From the food to the t-shirts and the prize categories, all aspects of the race have been carefully planned from the runners’ perspective. And yes, this includes the entrants receiving t-shirts made for women and sized for women, a concept all but non-existent at even the most prestigious mixed events. The runner in the OLG competition will receive his own special men’s shirt.
The race will also host a pasta dinner the night before the event, a nice touch for a race of this distance. The featured speaker at the event will be Katherine Switzer. Those familiar with Boston Marathon lore will remember her as “K. Switzer,” whose entry into, and ejection out of, the then all-male marathon helped break the gender tape for women in long-distance racing. So it is with a dash of poetic justice that Katherine Switzer, whose recent memoir, Marathon Woman, recounts her running story, will be the guest of this race made up of an all women’s field—with the noted exception—a total reversal of her racing experience in 1967.
The idea has really caught on around the country. There are registered runners from 24 states already, and inquiries continue to pour in from all around the US of A. The Race Directors announced that they are well over the 600 mark for entries, and fully expect to reach the 1,200 mark for women participants. There are some runners from as far away as California and Colorado, although the majority, of course, will come from New England.
The course itself is tough to beat. When one enters Maine, there is a sign on the turnpike that reads, “Maine—the way life should be.” The tagline for this course could be, “Maine Coast Half Marathon—the way a race course should be.” Set in and around the coastal gem known as “the Yorks,” this figure-eight course follows some of the best scenery that old New England has to offer, never straying more than a mile from the shore. It starts just south of Cape Neddick, one of Maine’s most picturesque lighthouses perched atop the rocky islet of Cape Neddick Nubble. It doesn’t get any more Maine than this. It then runs south along the water at Long Sands Beach. On a recent summer day, this is a typical bustling outing spot with lots of families, ice cream trucks and Frisbees. In late September, the beach will bring out welcome breezes and strolling locals.
Runners reach the southern loop of the course after crossing west over the wide mouth of the York River on Route 103. Here can be found the miniature Wiggley Bridge suspended over the inlet to a salt pond, and Wheeler Bridge, also an engineering marvel that is a favorite spot for fishing. This section includes back country roads with a brief stretch unpaved. On a recent sunny day spent exploring the new course, one runner remarked that he could barely breathe because the salt air in his nostrils was so thick. In addition, migrating butterflies chasing the runners along this quiet section made the entire run seem simply idyllic. On race day the quiet of the course will be broken along the way with eight bands playing music to rally the runners along.
The course then enters York Village, a spot well preserved by the active Historical Society. If runners have the time after the food following the event, a visit to the colonial jail or one of the historic houses would be a treat. The society’s junior docent program ensures that history will be shared for kids by kids. If there is no time to visit one of the historic spots, runners could at least enjoy all the historic architecture along the way, and perhaps check out an antique shop or two.
In addition to the One Lucky Guy category, the race directors have also created the “Newbie” division. All runners racing the half-marathon for the first time will be eligible for 5-year age-group prizes. The Newbie prize was featured at their inaugural Great Bay Half Marathon this spring, and 800 people signed up in this category.
All finishers will receive a medal, and the race directors have even given special thought to the design. Without spoiling the surprise, let’s just say it is a replica of an old coin that pictures a woman, a rocky cliff, and a lighthouse. It seems that for women’s running, in early autumn on the coast of Maine, justice most definitely will be served.
About the author: Diane McNamara began running in 1978, and since then has completed approximately 70 marathons and numerous ultramarathons, including four at the 100-mile distance. She has traveled throughout the U.S. and internationally to events in Africa, India, Europe, and the Canadian Northwest. She received a knit warm-up suit as a gift in 1978 and has been running and racing ever since. In addition to running, Diane enjoys biking, golf, and watching the Red Sox.