MILLINOCKET — Several runners from Mount Desert Island are preparing to run the Millinocket Marathon and Half, set for Saturday, Dec. 9. The race, organized by MDI running club Crow Athletics, was started in 2015 to help a struggling Northern Maine mill town that had been devastated by the closing of its major employer, a 100-year-old paper mill.
The starting line is downtown under a banner suspended between two fully loaded logging trucks. The race is the nation’s only USATF certified marathon with no registration fee. The only requirement for runners is that they support local businesses and contribute to the Katahdin region in some way.
Hope Rowan of Southwest Harbor heard of the race through her runner’s network. In spite of breaking her foot this past May, her training is on schedule, and she is prepared to run the full 26.2-mile course on the historic Golden Road, a dirt logging road with spectacular views of Mount Katahdin.
Rowan is raising funds for the Millinocket Memorial Library. She’ll run with the library’s mascot, a small stuffed moose named “Maxwell,” on her back. The library closed for a period in 2015 after the town cut its budget. An author and mapmaker, Rowan recently published “Ten Days in Acadia: A Kid’s Hiking Guide to Mount Desert Island” and is a strong advocate for children’s literacy and public libraries.
“I am tickled to be helping Maxwell Moose complete his 26.2 miles as I run my first marathon,” Rowan said. “This marathon, special in its own right, will be all the more meaningful for me, as it will tie together my love of Maine’s outdoor splendor, running and fostering children’s love of reading.”
Organizer Gary Allen, a Cranberry Island native and veteran race runner, conceived of the race as a way to provide an economic boost heading into the holiday season. Fifty racers came to Millinocket in 2015, over 500 ran in 2016, and this year, the town is preparing for more than 2,000.
“I had heard about the struggles of the Katahdin region and thought I could do something to help.” He thought the nontraditional, free format would be helpful “because I knew Millinocket did not have years to slowly develop a traditional athletic event. I needed to create something completely different to attract immediate attention, and I am thrilled it seems to have worked,” Allen said.
“I threw the ball, and the town caught the pass,” he said. “We can only hope that this marathon can continue to grow and bring people and positive attention to a special town with a special history.”