Wednesday, December 11, 2013
BY GLENN JORDAN
A race for elites, this is not.
On a cool and cloudy Sunday morning that saw temperatures barely break 50 degrees, a pair of 30-year-old Mainers won $500 as the first man (Rob Gomez of Saco) and woman (Leah Frost of Round Pond) to run the 26.2 miles from Portland's Back Cove to Cousins Island in Yarmouth and back.
Gomez won another $1,000 in bonus money for finishing in less than 2 hours and 25 minutes -- he needed only 2:24:22 -- but prizes aren't the point of this race, which altered its course this year to avoid construction on the Martin's Point Bridge connecting Portland and Falmouth.
An abundance of volunteers, well-placed water stops and a diverse assortment of bands sprinkled throughout the course make the marathon and its concurrent half marathon and marathon relay an attraction not only for local runners but for those with bucket lists. Autumn foliage and ocean views add to the ambiance.
"It's the premier marathon in Maine," Gomez said.
Nearly 1,000 runners attempted the marathon and twice that turned around an orange traffic cone on Route 88 to run the half marathon. Among those stopping after 13.1 miles were Mike and Kristin Kiss of suburban Chicago who had previously run the same distance in 49 other races in 49 other states.
Yes, they shared a smooch after finishing in 1:45:23. They managed to break two hours in all 50 races, an odyssey that started with the aftermath of their first half after previously having run a marathon.
"It was night and day different from not being able to walk down the stairs," Mike Kiss said. "I said, 'Wait a minute. This is fun.' "
Moninda Marube, 34, of Auburn won the half marathon in 1:08:13 and Sarah Mulcahy, 28, of Baring Plantation in Washington County was the first woman to finish, in 1:23:42.
Frost, the women's marathon winner, had been chasing Mulcahy through the early miles, thinking she was running the full marathon.
"She was the one lady I could see in front of me," Frost said. "So I was trying to keep her in sight and maybe gain on her a little and then she turned around at the half. I was mad at myself, because I didn't mean to go out that fast. I definitely slowed after that."
Even so, Frost completed her first official marathon in a time of 3:00:52, more than three minutes ahead of runner-up Erin Nixon, 24, of Boston.
Gomez enjoyed an even bigger cushion. More than 10 minutes passed before Adam Goode, 30, of Bangor crossed the line in 2:34:38. Cape Elizabeth's Matt Rand, 22, a recent graduate of Tufts University and due to start a new job Tuesday for U.S. News and World Reports in Washington D.C., placed third in his first marathon attempt, at 2:35:14.
A year ago, Gomez invited his friend Dan Vassallo to run the marathon, and Vassallo, a Colby College graduate who lives in Massachusetts, wound up setting a course record.
"I didn't invite him back," Gomez said with a wide smile. "I wanted to get a little redemption this year."
Conditions might not have been ideal for spectators - the sun never broke through clouds that spit out a few intermittent sprinkles - but Gomez was certainly grateful.
"Unbelievable," he said. "I was worried it was going to rain again, for the third year in a row, but the rain held off and it was perfect."
Away from the leaders, stories of inspiration were everywhere. The non-profit race distributes proceeds to a host of charities, including at least $50,000 to STRIVE, which helps young adults with disabilities. Smaller, but still significant amounts go to worthy groups in Portland, Falmouth, Cumberland and Yarmouth.
The Maine Army National Guard, for the eighth year in a row, organized a tribute march of service members carrying 30-pound rucksacks to honor 56 comrades who have died serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.