Aroostook County -
More than 40 runners from Maine and New Brunswick enjoyed the sweeping views around Bigrock Mountain during a half marathon event held Sunday morning, August 12, by The Aroostook Medical Center and Bigrock Mountain Ski Area. The tremendous positive feedback from the runners on both the course and the event has already led organizers to plan for this to become an annual event.
The first finisher of the Big Run Around the Mountain half marathon was Thomas Wire of New Limerick, who ran the 13.1 miles in just 88 minutes (1:28:07). The first female finisher was Katie Malone of Caribou, with a time of 1:41:19. Forty-two runners completed the race.
The Big Run Around the Mountain was the brainchild of Jamie Guerrette, TAMC’s community health specialist, after she was approached by the ACI & Central Aroostook Homecoming Committee about putting together an activity for Mars Hill Homecoming Weekend. Guerrette leads the hospital’s Fit & Fun program, which brings activities to the community for children, families and adults to encourage physical activity. The goal is to lower obesity, particularly in children, by promoting a more active lifestyle for the whole family.
“I’ve recently been running myself, and I realized that there are many runners in the area who want the challenge of racing longer distances. The cost of full or half marathons can be prohibitive to some, especially those who have never run that far and aren’t sure they can finish,” explained Guerrette. “TAMC’s commitment through our Fit & Fun program is to offer activities at low or no cost so it eliminates that barrier to getting out there and trying something that you might love. A half marathon just seemed like a perfect fit, and where better than the beautiful countryside around Bigrock. The timing also seemed ideal for runners who are training for the Caribou Marathon or Maine Marathon in September.”
TAMC partners regularly with Bigrock, particularly around winter ski programs. When Guerrette reached out to Travis Kearney, Bigrock manager, he was quick to agree to partner on the Big Run Around the Mountain.
“We want people to recognize Bigrock as a resource in the community throughout the year, not just during the winter,” said Kearney. “Hosting this half marathon with TAMC was ideal. People from near and far could come enjoy the beauty around Bigrock, and we hope they will plan to come back.”
The potential for serious runners to train and for less experienced ones to test their limits in an affordable way were both significant draws to the Big Run Around the Mountain according to feedback from the runners themselves.
Jacob Boone, second place finisher, traveled to the area from Old Town to run as part of his training for the Maine Marathon on September 30 in Portland. Similarly, Andy and Brittany Grass of Blaine and a number of others took on the course in preparation of the Caribou Marathon on September 16.
“My wife and I enjoy participating in a variety of running events from tough mountain obstacle races, mud runs to half marathons. What draws us to participate in a race is a fun atmosphere, comradery of fellow runners, and a challenging course. The Big Run Around the Mountain Half Marathon provided all of those things,” said Andy Grass. “The timing of the race was great for us too, leading into the Caribou Marathon next month. It was great to see TAMC and Bigrock partner to put on this event which supported the community of Mars Hill, and we look forward to running the race next year.”
The event also saw several first time half marathoners, including Lisa Lorenzo of Presque Isle and Carla Haines of Caribou. Lorenzo ran her very first 5K on Saturday during the Color PI event and then went on to tackle her first half marathon on Sunday. Lorenzo, who works on the food services staff at TAMC, was joined by Haines, her manager. The two are already making plans to next run in the Colors of Courage 5K/10K being held by TAMC on September 29.
For brothers George and Carl Bradbury, Sunday was a chance to enjoy a beautiful morning together while getting some exercise. The duo took on the course, keeping each other company throughout. George, of Bridgewater, edged out Carl, of South Portland, by just a tenth of a second going across the finish line.
The event also included a free Kids Fun Run and a free pancake breakfast. Another fun aspect of the day was cheer stations set up along the route. TAMC partnered with the Mars Hill IGA to sponsor a cheer station contest to encourage those who live along the route and others in the community to come out to both cheer on the runners and provide a water break along the course. More than a half dozen people set up cheer stations along the route, and earning a $100 gift card to the IGA for the winning station was Kim Fields of Mars Hill.
“It was great to see so many families set up along the race course handing out water, Gatorade and words of encouragement,” commented Grass regarding the cheer stations.
TAMC and the IGA also partnered to sponsor a poster contest at the finish line. Winning a $50 gift certificate for posters at the finish line were Elliot and Vincent Saucier, who were cheering on their mother, Katelyn Saucier of West Gardiner. “Hurry Up Mom, We’re Hungry!” urged one, while the other declared “No Candy? Worst. Parade. EVER.”
Those who took part in race have been vocal about their appreciation and satisfaction with the event. “From conversations with us immediately after the race to posts on social media and even a personal visit to our office, we have been thrilled with all of the heartwarming comments from those who took part,” Guerrette said. “This was so much fun for all of us to do and it has been so well received that we are excited to make it an annual event. Next year’s date has already been set for August 11 at Bigrock.”