Why Mainers hit the roading running

by Dr. Lisa Belisle, January 2017


Most road races start early in the morning, and the Trail to Ale 10K is no exception. The sky is gray and a light mist clings to the crowd gathering on Portland’s Eastern Promenade. Several runners sprint over from the porta- potties, tucking their shirts in along the way. The starting gun sounds and we are off, propelled by the adrenaline rush of racing with (and against) all who have gathered.

My running buddy—publisher Kevin Thomas—and I have positioned ourselves midway back in the group of almost 2,000. We don’t want to be trampled by those who are chasing gazelle-like PRs (personal records), nor trample others whose approach is more leisurely. We leap over puddles and try not to slip on the moist leaves that cover the storm drains.

Running tends to be a solitary pursuit, while road racing is anything but. When we attach a numbered bib to the fabric of our sweat- wicking shirts, we agree to be counted among our peers. Our legs join a moving forest of limbs circumnavigating a predetermined course. This provides an apt visual metaphor for living in the Pine Tree State. Maine is a place of both solitude and community. Although we value our privacy, we equally value the company of those who choose to dwell with us in an ecosystem that veers yearly from bone-chilling winter cold to sweltering August heat.

Runners, especially, must love (or at least accept) all of the weather that our state conjures up. Running in Maine is not for the faint of heart. In the winter, it can be dark, and it can be cold. Very, very cold.

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