AUGUSTA — Whether he’s designing race courses or participating on them, running has taken Gary Allen all over the country. This month, the Great Cranberry Island resident has had to make travel arrangements for a different reason.
Allen was named the MarathonFoto Road Race Management Race Director of the Year on Thursday and inducted into the Maine Running Hall of Fame on Sunday. The two ceremonies took the founder of Crow Athletics and the Mount Desert Island Marathon from one end of the Eastern Seaboard to the other in just a matter of days.
“It was definitely a tremendous honor to receive both awards, and it was even more humbling to be at both ceremonies in the same week,” Allen said. “Going from place to place for those few days was definitely a very busy time — I almost missed by connecting flight [back to Maine] — but it was worth it because it was a fun and special week.”
Early last week, Allen made the trip to St. Petersburg, Fla., where he was named Road Race Management Race Director of the Year.
In a press release prior to the ceremony, Road Race Management President Phil Stewart cited Allen’s work directing the MDI Marathon, which has received national awards from both Runner’s World and New England Runner for its scenery, design and atmosphere.
The award, four-time Boston Marathon winner and 1976 United States Olympic team representative Bill Rodgers once said, is essentially “the gold medal of race directing.”
Allen was nominated by friend O.J. Logue. He had no idea he was being considered, but the committee of directors, athletes, media members and others in the running community deemed him worthy.
“The running community and the state of Maine have greatly benefited from [Gary’s] tireless energy and vision put forth into action,” Stewart said. “Gary has the extraordinary ability to create a concept and act upon it in a meaningful way. … His accomplishments and energy are legendary in Maine.”
Three days later, Allen was named to the Maine Running Hall of Fame at Governor’s Hill Mansion in Augusta. The MDI Marathon itself was also included among the 10 inductees.
In addition to his work with the MDI Marathon, Allen has received notoriety in recent years for his creation of the Millinocket Marathon. Inspired by trips to the Burning Man Festival in Nevada in 2014 and 2015, he created the race as a way to boost the Katahdin region’s local economy.
“It started with a few of us saying, ‘All right, we’re going to show up here, offer a free race and run it,’ and it just kind of grew from that to bigger and bigger crowds the next two years,” he said.
“We just wanted to ask ourselves how we could do something to help, and this was a way we could bring new people to that area and help that town and the local businesses.”
Allen said he was initially concerned over how well people in the blue-collar mill town would receive the efforts of “some island boy” such as himself. The overwhelmingly positive reaction served as a reminder, he said, of the common bonds through which all Mainers — from lobstermen to loggers to potato farmers to “Portland hipsters” — could come together.
“At the end of the day, I’m just a crazy Downeasterner, and I want my races to be for everyone,” Allen said. “I just felt like these opportunities for great events were there, and I told myself, ‘Hey, I can be that guy.’ My passion helped me make that happen.”