MILLINOCKET, Maine — The first official Millinocket Marathon was run in temperatures that struggled to get out of the single numbers Saturday.
"The cold really takes it out of you," says runner John Hough. "But people have been so welcoming. They've been great, and I don't know, I like challenging myself, so when I can challenge myself and give stuff back, why not?"
The run was the brainchild of Cranberry Isles, Maine marathoner Gary Allen, as a potential winter infusion for the Katahdin region which lost its major economic driver with the shutdown of the area's paper mills.
The race is a Boston Marathon qualifying race, and organizers think, the only one in the nation that doesn't charge an entry fee. Instead, runners were asked to spend that money in town, eating, shopping, and tipping generously.
"Race entries can cost anywhere from $45 or $50 up to $500." Allen says, "We wanted to help the town, do something for Millinocket, so we ask racers to spend the equivalent to a race entry fee while they're in Millinocket."
For some, the day was like a high school reunion.
"I was walking down the sidewalk and ran into people I haven't seen in, what 20 years. Yeah, 20 years, and 20 pounds ago!" said Mike Faloon, who graduated from Schenck High School in 1993, but left the region to pursue a career in investments. "I live in Boston now. Like so many, I had to leave the region to find a good job, but I just had to come back to support this." Faloon says he has now bought one of the many vacant houses in Millinocket and is looking to renew his ties to the area.
Friday night, almost 1000 racers were registered for both the full 26.2 mile marathon and the half marathon; 540 actually finished the two races. 107 runners finished the full marathon.
Ryan Collins, 31, of Portland finished first with a time of 2:45:56. Leah Frost, 33, of Glover, Vermont was the first female finisher -coming in fifth over all-with a time of 3:13:56.