BAR HARBOR — It took Jeremy Dougherty three years to make a dream he had conceptualized on paper before moving to Mount Desert Island come true: traversing every peak on the island in 24 hours.
The dream was based on the Bob Graham Round, run in the English Lake District, which ends at the door of an Irish pub. “I’ve always been obsessed with that,” he said about the 42-peak United Kingdom challenge. “(Runners) have 24 hours to hit all these peaks. It literally looks like Acadia. So, I had already mapped it out before I even moved here.”
After accepting a job with Witham Hotels in 2017, Dougherty moved to Maine from Arizona with his family.
While there are 26 named peaks in Acadia National Park, Dougherty included several obscure and a few abandoned trails to get 42 points of interest for the challenge he called the Acadia Round.
Working from home in Phoenix because of COVID-19, Dougherty’s brother, Noah, decided to pack his family up and come to Maine for a month. While waiting out the two-week quarantine, the brothers mapped out their plan and recruited a couple of Jeremy’s running buddies, Rebecca Geib and Dylan Brann, for the ultra race. When all was said and done, the group ran just under 68 miles and logged 17,000 feet in elevation in 24 hours and 28 minutes.
Other runners from the MDI running community joined them along the way. Luke Skywalker and Han Solo also made the journey. Before the run, each Dougherty dad was given a Star Wars figurine by their sons, respectively, and was asked to photograph them at each peak or significant location along the round.
“We had to take pictures with Luke and Han on the posts,” said Jeremy about the mountain markers throughout the park.
On Saturday, June 27, the four runners started out from Clark’s Cove on Seal Cove Road in Tremont. They ran across the western ridge, over several mountain peaks.
“We had friends at all these spots who would give us more water,” said Jeremy. His family met the group on Flying Mountain with food before they hit a couple more peaks and then crossed the water. “We jumped into kayaks and kayaked across the Sound.”
June was a hot month and the last weekend was no exception. Temperatures averaged 77 degrees throughout the 24 hours the group made the run.
“We started at noon and it was so hot,” said Jeremy, referring to Saturday, June 27. “We didn’t stop (or) sleep; we just wanted to see how fast we could do it.”
Well, there was one stop on the top of The Triad where the runners lay on the rocks and drank in the stars for a moment before moving on, he added.
“People were jumping in to help us out,” said Jeremy, naming several seasoned runners who joined them along the way. “We were only alone for about a 12-mile stretch.”
There were several trails traversed through the night in the dark with headlamps; one was full of unmaintained terrain. It was a miracle none of them fell or sustained any injuries, Jeremy said in a conversation with the Islander.
“A lot of us were sleepwalking at some points,” he said about the night shift.
But, he didn’t escape completely unscathed.
“It was so humid,” said Jeremy. “My feet were just raw and bleeding everywhere. I just duct taped them and it was pretty much fine.”
Even though he and his brother planned out the run, they did a minimal amount of physical training to prepare ahead of time.
“My brother and I are awful at training,” said Jeremy.
While Geib and Brann run between 50 and 80 miles a week, according to Jeremy, he and Noah prepared for the 24-hour trek with a 20-mile training run the week before. After the first 10 miles of treachery, Jeremy said it got easier.
There were some incredible views along the route and a few that were just blips on the movie reel of the day. Cadillac Mountain did not let them down when they reached the top on Sunday morning.
“It was a super pretty day,” Jeremy recalled. “The fog had come in and covered the ground and only the mountain peaks were showing.”
Recovering from such a stunt has taken Jeremy a couple of weeks. On Tuesday, he said it was the first day he had ventured out for a run since arriving at the clock on Main Street, June 28.
Next, Jeremy is looking to traverse Isle au Haut and Schoodic Peninsula to be able to say he has reached the top of every Acadia National Park peak. While Geib and Brann say they need a bit more time to recover, Jeremy has no doubt he’ll find willing participants to join him.
“That’s the funnest part … getting people to do their first ultra race,” he said. People don’t really know what they are capable of until they push themselves past their perceived limit. “Great stories and great adventures, that’s the point.”