BAR HARBOR — When more than 1,700 runners race toward the finish line on Sunday morning, professional medical teams from the Mount Desert Island Hospital will be waiting to lend a hand to anyone in need.
To make sure they are in good shape to take to the course before the night of the race, runners also can visit local and national health and fitness-related vendors at the pre-race health and fitness expo.
That presence is just the tip of a race weekend volunteer presence that insures that runners and their support crews will have an enjoyable experience. And that support is returned in funds many runners help raise to support nonprofit causes.
Crow Athletics, the host organization of the annual race, sets up the expo where runners also can collect their race packets, shirts and bib numbers.
The event brings together runners from all over the country and even from around the world, many of whom will be running for more than just themselves.
A “Beyond the Finish Line” program set up by the organizers makes it easy for runners to collect sponsorships and pledges for their favorite local charities.
These efforts go hand in hand with traditions such as the Saturday night pasta dinner, mile marker art auction and groups providing music and entertainment along the route.
Over the years, nearly $150,000 has been raised to support Acadia Family Center, Acadia Wildlife Federation, Autism society of Maine, Beth C. Wright Cancer Center, Camp Beech Cliff, College of the Atlantic, Friends of Ellsworth Public Library, Friends of Acadia, Friends in Action, Harbor House Community Center, Healthy Acadia, Hospice Volunteers of Hancock County, Island Connections, The Jackson Laboratory, Maine Sea Coast Mission, MDI Biological Laboratory, MDI High School Music Boosters, MDI Historical Society, MDI Hospital, MDI Marathon Beyond the Finish Line, MDI YMCA, Mount Desert Elementary School, Mount Desert Nursery School, Mount Desert Nursing Association, Neighborhood House, SPCA of Hancock County, Special Olympics Maine, Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary and others.
“I live here and run here and feel very passionately about the power of a simple idea growing like a pebble tossed into still water,” said Gary Allen of Crow Athletics. “I was taught as a young runner at MDIHS that it’s always better to leave things better than we found them. I hope the MDI marathon goes on as an asset to our island for as long or longer than the Boston Marathon.”
Area artists decorate canvas “mile marker” banners to be sold in a silent auction near the finish line. Proceeds benefit the Mount Desert Nursery School. The Mount Desert Island Historical Society has several runners collecting pledges, plans to cheer on runners at the Sound School House with the help of the Barn Arts Collective and has been posting historical tidbits relating to the marathon route on their Facebook page.
“One of the things that they [the organizers] wanted to accomplish was to tie the community together and to benefit nonprofits,” said Tim Garrity, executive director of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society.
“The marathon does a tremendous amount of good for the community by lending us their excitement, reach, vigor and energy for fundraising. It’s really quiet wonderful.”
Saturday night, runners and others can load up on carbs at a pasta dinner at Mount Desert Island High School from 5:30 p.m. The dinner is sponsored by and supports the MDI Music Boosters. Tickets for the dinner are $18, $16 for children under 12. The menu includes penne pasta with choice of vegetarian, meat or seafood sauces; salad, garlic bread and chocolate cake with ganache.
The featured speaker and guest athlete at the dinner is Michael Westphal, a native of Great Cranberry Island. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s more than eight years ago, Westphal uses his running and racing to support Parkinson’s disease research, in particular the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
The marathon starts at 8 a.m. at 200 Main St. in Bar Harbor and follows a course along the eastern side of the island and around Somes Sound to the finish line on Main Street in Southwest Harbor. There is an early 7 a.m. start for those who feel they will need more than six hours to finish.
The half-marathon begins at 8:30 a.m. and begins at the intersection of the Neighborhood and Manchester roads in Northeast Harbor and also ends on Main Street in Southwest Harbor.