Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Beth Quimby firstname.lastname@example.org
PORTLAND - Maine's first lady, Ann LePage, stood among hundreds of runners and walkers ready to set out on the 5-kilometer Run for the Fallen Maine race at Ocean Gateway on the waterfront Sunday morning vowing to do her best to cross the finish line.
Vietnam veteran Jim Merrill of Auburn gives a high-five to a finisher of the sixth annual Run for the Fallen Maine in Portland on Sunday.
Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer
LePage said running is not among her favorite ways to work out, so taking part in the race was a testimony to her deep gratitude to military servicemen and servicewomen and their families.
"I am here to be with you guys," she said to a group of well-wishers.
LePage wasn't the only political figure at the event. Democratic U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, who hopes to unseat LePage's husband, Republican Gov. Paul LePage, in the 2014 election, was spotted among the crowd of about 600 people who showed up at the sixth annual Run for the Fallen Maine, which honors the 85 servicemen and two servicewomen with Maine ties who have been killed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
There were many sad faces, tears and hugs during the opening ceremony, when a bell tolled as the names of the fallen were called out.
This year, the run was shortened from a 47-miler from Ogunquit to Portland to a family-friendly 5K -- or 3.1-mile -- run, with the first wave of runners timed and the rest going at their own pace.
Those who didn't want to make the trip on foot got a ride on the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Crosses with a photo of each of the fallen were erected at the finish line and posters of them decorated the route.
Teresa Pattle of Harrison, who walked with a team from Idexx Laboratories in Westbrook, said she appreciated the downsizing of the course.
"I think this gives more accessibility to people who are not runners, so those of us with an aversion to running can participate," said Pattle, who recently saw off her husband, 1st Sgt. Andrew Pattle of the Army National Guard's 133rd Engineer Battalion, who left on a tour in Afghanistan.
Rumors of financial mismanagement by race founder John Mixon of Ogunquit, which surfaced before last year's race, have failed to deter participation. A settlement agreement in January declared the rumors "unfounded and wrong," and Mixon was awarded an undisclosed six-figure financial settlement.
In 2008, the first year of the race, eight people accompanied by a Maine State Police trooper made the Ogunquit-to-Portland run. By 2012, hundreds of runners turned out to raise more than $108,000, despite the rumors. This year, the crowd appeared bigger than ever.
The money raised in the annual event is used to help families of Maine service members who were killed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. The amount raised in Sunday's run was not immediately available.
Mixon alluded to the controversy when he spoke at Sunday's opening ceremony.
"We will do whatever we can to make the names of the fallen live on," he said.
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