My running family and I head up to Millinocket together each year to run the Millinocket Marathon and Half. The race is the brainchild of Gary Allen (RD of the MDI Marathon, my first marathon, the one that got me hooked!) who felt compelled to help this devastated former mill town in Northern Maine. The concept of the race is simple, but unique. There is no entry fee: runners are expected to spend an amount of money in the Millinocket economy equal to what we would normally spend on race fees. Because the race is free, nothing is provided beyond a certified course. If we want anything else, we runners are responsible to make it happen ourselves. Millinocket is not about what you get, it's about what you give.
Our crew takes that philosophy very seriously. A month before the race, we gather to plan our stay (the 15 of us rent a whole boarding house) and make the direction signs for the finish line. One member of the family sponsored a porta-potty on the course with a variation of our house motto, "Party at Dave's!" We're proud to do our part to create the race infrastructure.
Above and beyond my own race weekend purchases, I brought some used sporting equipment to the Millinocket Memorial Library for use in their gear library. It’s an amazing program that gives locals access to the equipment they need to adventure outside in their beautiful home community. Seriously, you should check them out.
Millinocket has embraced this crazy race and several community members and organizations put up aid stations along the course. 2019 was no exception. Fireball whiskey is the unofficial drink of the Millinocket Marathon and Half, and you can find nips or shots at every stop!
Weather in Maine in December can be unpredictable, but race day was sunny, in the 20's and not too windy. I was managing pinched nerve in my neck and chose to walk rather than risk my recovery. The half marathon is especially friendly to walkers, and several members of the family welcomed me to the walking group. We got separated making our way to the rear of the starting corral, but managed to come together on the second mile.
I was glad I heeded the RD's advice to expect nothing on the course. The usual cast of generous characters had put up aid stations, but there were more runners in attendance than in previous years, and the water and snacks did not go as far. Carrying my own hydration and nutrition let me have a comfortable walk. The Gatorade, cookies and warm soup I found on the course added an element of fun.
Another fun surprise were the spectators on the fifth mile. They had arrived by snowmobile and parked just at the edge of the course. These folks welcomed runners to hop on their machines and have their pictures taken with the course and its view of Katahdin in the background. Who were we to turn down such an offer?!
A personal high for me came in the final mile, up on Cookie Hill. I was taking a quick shot of cocoa at the final aid station when I heard someone call my name. The runners in our house had changed into dry clothes and come back onto the course to bring us walkers home! I love my running family.
While walking the course was not my original plan (in fact, I had uncharacteristically taken my speedwork seriously this year), I'm grateful that the nature of my injury and my overall fitness allowed me to participate. The Millinocket Marathon and Half is the kind of event where the whole field feels like one big running family. I went to a 13.1-mile-long party and had a surprisingly perfect day.
From the food drive at bib pickup, to the Millinocket Memorial Library capital fundraiser, to the pre-race meals hosted by and benefitting some civic organizations, to the retail sales all weekend, this year’s economic impact continued the good work of the Millinocket Marathon and Half. The best data indicates that over the past five years, it has generated over a million dollars for the Katahdin region. Here’s looking forward to 2020!