It’s only fitting that a runner who has run many marathons over the last 29 years is directing the fifth edition of the most scenic marathon in the United States and Canada.
Recently, ESPN the Magazine released a list of best worldwide marathons by category, and the Mount Desert Island Marathon topped the list of the most scenic in the United States and Canada.
“It’s a pretty big honor. We were very honored,” said MDI Marathon race director Gary Allen, who added that a link to the ESPN article can be found on www.crowathletics.com.
Allen and his race committee are very busy these days preparing for Sunday’s race, which starts at 8 a.m. in downtown Bar Harbor and finishes in downtown Southwest Harbor.
A new men’s champion will be crowned this year as Bar Harbor’s own Judson Cake is gearing up for the Chicago Marathon later this month. However, David Herr of Cannan, Vt., who won the first two MDI Marathons, is registered, Allen said, as is Andy Beardsley, who finished third a year ago.
Two-time winner and course record holder Lara Judson is in the field, as well as Kim Gott, who won the first MDI Marathon.
The race will be capped at 1,000 participants, and Allen has a little more than 750 signed up right now.
“Registration is still open, but we’ve got a big field of runners,” he said. “It may well just be the largest marathon in Maine this year.”
The Maine Marathon in Portland, which was run earlier this month, had 740 finishers.
For the first time, the race has a presenting sponsor in Red Lobster, which Allen said has “been absolutely fantastic to work with.”
Unlike other marathon events around the country, MDI doesn’t include a half-marathon, 15K, or 10K in its event. It is strictly what it is: a marathon.
“I’ve been running marathons for a long time, and I’m still running them, knock on wood, and I founded the race with real belief the marathon should be a test and not a track meet,” said Allen, who is also the founder of the race.
Allen ran his first marathon in 1977, the old Paul Bunyan Marathon. He also ran in the renewed version this summer.
The MDI Marathon is a test, with hills similar to those in the Boston Marathon.
“[Runners] shouldn’t be out there looking for pool table-type surfaces to run marathons on. They should be looking for courses like the Boston Marathon that offer a real challenge,” Allen said. “I think the MDI Marathon course, as I see it, hopefully it’ll be around as long as Boston will be. It’s tough, and a challenge, and a test.”
The time of year for the marathon is perfect, as most of the summer tourists are gone for the season and the foliage is just starting to peak.
“We felt like doing it when the island is beautiful and when the island starts to quiet down,” Allen said.
After the MDI race concludes, Allen will resume training for a marathon of his own. He will run the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.
He added that Lance Armstrong will be running in the marathon, and if Allen gets close to him, he may try and strike up a conversation.
“If I get up even with him at all, I’ll run with him as long as I can and engage in conversation,” Allen said. “A lot of experts say he’ll run about 2 [hours], 55 [minutes].”