30 September 2006

Marching the Portland, Maine Marathon

The 15th annual Eastern Region Marathon Championship will take place tomorrow, October 1, 2006, in Portland, Maine. This is a marathon that has taken place every year for the past 15 and runners from all over the area have been training for the 26.2 mile run.

However, this year the marathon will have more than 120 participants who are not running to win the race or to beat their own time. This year, a group of soldiers from the Maine National Guard will march the 26.2 miles in full uniform - combat boots and fatigues - each with a 30-pound pack on his back. They are marching to honor their comrades who lost their lives in the line of duty. Many of the soldiers have spent their own time in Iraq or Afghanistan, but others have yet to be deployed.

Many of the soldiers will march the marathon in relay stages, but 23 plan to march the entire course. Some have trained by alternatively running and marching, while others are going into the march completely cold. Read more about the soldiers at Portland Press Herald - Marathoners.

If you would like to run or walk alongside these brave, honorable soldiers, the race is still accepting participants. Entry fees are $50.00 for the marathon and $35.00 for the half marathon. The starting line is at Baxter Boulevard, between Forest Avenue and Preble Street in Portland. Registration goes until 6 p.m. today and starts at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow, at the University of Southern Maine Gym on 96 Falmouth Street. For a course map of either the marathon or half marathon, CLICK HERE.

The spectator-friendly course starts and finishes along the Back Cove. The first and last four miles are mostly flat. All three races are together for the first six miles before the half marathon heads back to Portland. In between, runners enjoy Mackworth Point in Falmouth (just north of Mackworth Island), a short detour off Route 1. The course then returns to Route 1 and turns onto Route 88, where runners pass many stately homes.

The half marathon course includes rolling hills between Miles 4 and 8. After that it is mostly flat on its return to Portland, again crossing the very scenic Martin's Point Bridge area. The marathon and relay continue along Route 88 to Yarmouth for a 2.5-mile loop around a rural neighborhood before rejoining Route 88 for the return trip to Portland. The marathon course features a mixture of rolling hills and flat sections between Miles 4 and 17, and is mostly flat or downhill for the final nine miles. There is a limit of 2,500 runners for the marathon and half marathon combined.

If you aren't up for the run, consider coming out to cheer on the members of our military who are honoring their own. Isn't it the least we can do?

Copyright © 2006 - Paulla Estes

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