BAR HARBOR— Melissa Ossanna calls herself a ‘crazy runner type.’
The type who forwent an office chair in her workstation to not only stand up but to also be in constant motion, if she chooses.
“I have a walking treadmill at my computer that just keeps me in shape for whatever, whenever,” said Ossanna in a conversation with the Islander last week.
She is also the type who runs 77 miles of carriage roads after the spring thaw, attempts 100 miles on a third-mile stretch in her backyard and signs up to run three 200-mile endurance races, known as the triple crown, all in one year.
“I didn’t start running until I was 42,” said Ossanna, who entered the MDI Marathon in 2012. “It was the first race I’d ever signed up for. By the time I finished and ran that marathon, I was hooked from there.”
She went from the marathon to the Great Cranberry Island 50K and then began looking for 100-mile races to participate in.
“My first 100-miler my ankles swelled up and were so big,” said Ossanna, who has muscular dystrophy. “I was so sore.”
This was going to be the year for running three different 200-plus mile endurance races. Unfortunately, Ossanna chose a year when a global pandemic canceled most large gatherings.
“I was in the process of raising money for the National MS Society, Greater New England Chapter, when I planned my triple crown of 200 milers for this year (Bigfoot 200 Endurance Run, Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Run, 100k & 25k, Moab 240 mile Endurance Run),” Ossanna wrote on her Facebook page in July. “When Covid hit, I stopped actively fundraising, since I didn’t know what would happen.”
When the third week of August arrived, Ossanna had scheduled time off from work to head to Washington state and run the Bigfoot 200. Instead, she decided to do it here in Acadia National Park and switched her cause to the Mount Desert Island Search and Rescue Team.
“I started at 8:10 (a.m.) on August 25 over at Schoodic [Peninsula],” said Ossanna about her endurance run that spanned about two weeks. “I wanted to see how far I could get in those five days… I did this because I had signed up for my first 200–mile race.”
By the end of Friday, Aug. 28, Ossanna had run 115 miles covering most of the park’s peaks, gotten a total of 15 hours of sleep and was looking at a next-day weather forecast of torrential rains.
“Being on the [MDI] Search and Rescue Team, I don’t like putting myself at risk on wet granite,” she said about why she decided not to keep going that Saturday. But, on Sunday, Aug. 30, “I went out for 10 more [miles].”
Throughout that week, Ossanna went out running after work to continue logging miles.
“I’m not a super-fast runner but I am a really determined one,” she said. “I love that feeling of running through 24 hours of a day.”
Over Labor Day weekend, Ossanna ran just under 50 miles in three days to get to a final total of 193 miles, 45,380 feet of elevation gain and every peak in Acadia National Park scaled, some more than once.
“Basically, I just plugged along,” she said in a conversation with the Islander on Sept. 8. “I hit all the peaks numerous times. My goal was to cover every single trail in the park… My legs were tired. They still are.”
Because the Bigfoot 200 was canceled for 2020, those signed up to run are automatically entered into the 2021 version of the race, according to Ossanna. Each year, to commemorate the event, those who reach the end receive a belt buckle made by a local artist. This year’s belt buckle includes the word ‘elusive’ for people like Ossanna who went ahead and ran the distance elsewhere.
As of Sept. 8, she had raised just over $600 for MDI Search and Rescue, an organization of volunteers that has been in high demand this season.
“We’ve had other busy years,” said Ossanna. “This year has been surprisingly busy.”