Ultra runner Melissa Ossanna of Bar Harbor competes in this year’s Moab 240 in Moab, Utah. Ossanna will be running up and down Cadillac Mountain from sunrise until sunset Tuesday, Dec. 21, to raise awareness for multiple sclerosis (MS). PHOTO COURTESY OF HOWIE STERN

Ultramarathoner plans Cadillac Mountain dawn-to-dusk run

Melissa Ossanna pauses for a photo during her Bigfoot 200 run last summer in Acadia National Park. Ossanna is training for a 188-mile leg of a cross-country relay run for MS Run the US next spring in Utah.

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — For Melissa Ossanna, the shortest day of the year is about to be one long day of running. 

It’s nothing new for the 52-year-old Bar Harbor native, who has made running a part of her life in recent years as an ultramarathon participant. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in her late 20s, Ossanna has always made it her mission to live a lifestyle that flew in the face of her diagnosis. 

“I’m a stubborn person, so ever since my diagnosis, I’ve used that as a chance to try and do anything I set my mind to and not leave anything behind,” Ossanna said. “I went to grad school, I left an abusive relationship, and then, when I was in my 40s, I started running.” 

In the past decade, Ossanna, who has spent years trying to raise awareness for MS, has competed in some of the country’s longest runs across some of its most challenging terrains. Next week, she’ll do so in another capacity: a day of running up and down Acadia’s most iconic landmark. 

Next Tuesday, Ossanna will mark the winter solstice by running from the base of Cadillac Mountain to the peak and back from dawn until dusk. She will be doing so to raise money for MS Run the US (a Wisconsin-based nonprofit that raises awareness and money to support MS research) ahead of a cross-country race in which she’ll be competing next spring. 

Ossanna is set to begin from the Eagle Lake entrance to Park Loop Road at daybreak. The distance spans roughly 9 miles and, should conditions Tuesday be ideal, will take her approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes in both directions. 

The sun next Tuesday will rise at 7:06 a.m. and set at 3:57 p.m. That would theoretically leave Ossanna time for three legs up and three legs down the mountain, though she plans not to push the pace too much and will also have to adjust her speed for company that will be running alongside her for stretches of her journey. 

“[There’s] no plans for a set amount of ascents,” Ossanna said. “The number of ascents will depend on conditions, the pace of any company that may join me, any pretty stuff I might take photos of, the weight of my clothing if it’s really cold, etc.” 

The run will also serve as a training regimen for MS Run the US’s signature event, a cross-country relay race set to take place in the spring. The race will consist of 18 legs and span a total of 3,260 miles from Santa Monica, Calif., to New York. 

Those wishing to make donations to Ossanna’s cause can do so through the above QR code.

Ossanna’s leg of the race, Leg 5, totals 188 miles. It will take her from the city of Nephi in central Utah to the city of Vernal in the eastern part of the state, just 20 miles from the Colorado border.  

Donations to MS Run the US frequently go toward mobility-related functions associated with the condition. That’s a particularly important area of concern to Ossanna, who has been an ambassador for the nonprofit for more than a year now. 

“Perhaps, with this solstice run, I can use the appreciation of Cadillac Mountain to help others off our island understand more about MS and how variable it can be,” Ossanna said. “Mobility is important for all of us with this disease, and mobility has so many different meanings for people with MS.” 

Although the weather in late December is often unforgiving, Ossanna plans to do her runs on the solstice unless conditions become unsafe. As long as conditions permit, though, Ossanna will be prepared – she previously did a single run up Cadillac Summit Road to the peak and back in 2019 as part of a College of the Atlantic fundraiser. 

“I’m mostly running the road, but there’ll be some parts of trail along the way,” Ossanna said. “Whatever it throws at me, I can take it. I can brave the cold, and I’ll have my good spikes with me.”

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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