Supporters cheer on runners in the 2015 Mount Desert Island Marathon. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

1,800 expected for marathon

BAR HARBOR — For the past 15 years, the Mount Desert Island Marathon has highlighted the end of the tourist season here on the island.

Restaurants such as Café This Way in Bar Harbor and Eat-A-Pita in Southwest Harbor close for the winter following the race.

But for this weekend, it’s the final party of the season for the 1,800 runners registered for the race, their family and friends, and the MDI community.

Race director Gary Allen said the Oct. 16 running could be one of the most competitive races in the state in recent years.

“We have over 1,800 participants signed up, including some very fast elite runners,” he said by email. “On paper, this looks like one of the strongest fields assembled in Maine in decades.”

Last year’s winner, Michael Crouch, ran a course-record time in 2 hours, 26 minutes, 55 seconds. Women’s champion Leah Frost finished in 2:49:44. She is set to compete again this year.

The race kicks off with Saturday night’s pre-race pasta dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Mount Desert Island High School. The event raises money for music camp sponsorships granted by the MDI High School Music Boosters.

For the second year in a row, Michael Westphal will be the dinner’s featured speaker.

The Great Cranberry Island native was a top runner in the state during his 20s, but gave up competitive running after college.

In June 2015, Westphal placed second in the Great Run Marathon on Great Cranberry, his first marathon in 23 years.

Since then, Westphal has raced to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. He was diagnosed with the disease 10 years ago.

But it hasn’t slowed him down at all. At age 58, he completed the 2015 MDI Marathon in 3:44:15, finishing 150th in the men’s division out of 656 runners.

Westphal isn’t the only inspiring aspect of this year’s marathon.

Two girls from Millinocket will compete in Sunday’s race.

Bailey and Jessicca Girsa have been training for the upcoming Millinocket Half-Marathon, which Allen debuted last December to help the town’s struggling economy following the closure of its paper mill.

Mount Desert lobsterman Jim Bright heard about the girls and decided to pay their registration fees to come down and run in the MDI half marathon. Others from the community are provided them with running gear and a place to stay this weekend.

What started as a grassroots movement has become one of the most unique aspects of the MDI Marathon.

Spectators are a common sight at races, but spectators with guitars are not as common.

Musicians post up at various spots along the race course to serenade the racers as they move along the course.

“These impromptu roadside serenades further showcase the fun, creativity and talent of our combined arts and athletics communities, and all are invited to come play again,” said Allen. “Especially the young woman who brought her piano out on the course to play for the runners.”

There are two big celebrations following the race.

The Acadia Chamber is hosting its first official finish line party along Village Green Way in Southwest Harbor. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., racers and their supporters are invited for food from Mainely Meat BBQ, Coda Restaurant and beer from Atlantic Brewing Company.

There also will be live music, kids’ events and vendors.

The town of Southwest Harbor, The First, Village Green Arts and the Barn Arts Collective also helped organize the event.

Shuttle buses will take runners back to Bar Harbor following the festival.

Back in Bar Harbor, Side Street Café is hosting its own post-race party from 5-8 p.m.

Food and drink specials are on tap for the night. Runners also will get to view a slideshow of professional race photos taken that day.

Taylor Bigler Mace

Taylor Bigler Mace

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Taylor covers sports and maritimes for the Islander. As a native of Texas, she is an unapologetic Dallas Cowboys fan. [email protected]
Taylor Bigler Mace

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