Members of the Bar Harbor-based U.S. Department of Minimal Effort team cross the finish line of the Down East Sunrise Trail Relay on July 20 in Eastport. A record 46 teams braved the heat to compete in this year’s edition of the race. PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN KING

Hot time for overnight relay

ELLSWORTH — Few trails in Maine are as remote as the Down East Sunrise Trail in Hancock and Washington counties. For some of the area’s most adept runners, that’s a selling point.

For six years now, teams of runners from Mount Desert Island and elsewhere in Hancock County and throughout the state of Maine have traversed the 85-mile trail from Ellsworth to Eastport as part of the Down East Sunrise Trail Relay. Even amidst the stifling heat that engulfed the area over the weekend, the field was bigger than ever.

A record 46 teams competed in this year’s Down East Sunrise Trail Relay, organized by Crow Athletics, over the weekend. Teams braved triple-digit heat indices as they traveled along wilderness and countryside pathways toward America’s easternmost city.

“I think this race is great because it captures the imagination of what Maine is about,” Crow Athletics co-founder Gary Allen said. “A lot of people come to Maine and go to Acadia, Portland and Camden, and there’s more than that.”

This year’s team win went to Old Town Track Club, which finished with a time of 10 hours, 19 minutes, 36 seconds at a pace of 6:02 per mile. That time was about an hour better than the second-place team, Team RIOT.

Team Rebel Scum battled Eastbound and Down for third place with the former edging out the latter by less than two minutes. MDI-based U.S. Department of Minimal Effort finished with a time of 12:28:07 and a pace of 7:17 to round out the top five.

With the race divided into 16 legs, runners were able to better position themselves to handle the rising heat. The fact that multiple legs were held at night also cut down on the amount of time runners had to spend battling the high temperatures.

“In our pre-race brief, we said, ‘Hey, it’s going to rise 10 degrees every hour, and you have to be ready for it,’” Allen said. “In a lot of places on this trail, you’re miles from civilization. That can be dangerous if you’re not prepared or not careful.”

Prior to last year’s event, the race finished at a nearby campground. Organizers have moved the finish line to downtown Eastport, which has boosted the race’s impact on the city’s economy.

“I see these events as community builders and economic drivers as much as I consider them to be athletic competitions,” Allen said. “It’s participation tourism … We always planned for the race to capture all the scenery of Downeast Maine and then finish in Eastport.”

Next month, the Crow Athletics tour will make its way to MDI. The Great Cranberry 100 will be held Aug. 16-17, and the Northeast Harbor Road Race will take place the following weekend on Aug. 24.

Whereas the Northeast Harbor Road Race is set to enter its 42nd year, the Great Cranberry 100 is entering just its second year. As a 100-mile race that requires runners to access Cranberry Isles by ferry, it might be one of Allen’s most daring ideas yet.

“I think it takes a special kind of idiot to think of some of the things I think up,” Allen joked. “The trick that apparently I am fairly good at is identifying new places to run where we can amplify the incredible feeling already there.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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