PORTLAND — Flowers? Fine.

Truffles? Absolutely.

But what Ellen Flaherty of Scarborough is looking forward to most of all on Mother’s Day is lacing up her running shoes.

“It’s my favorite race,” she said of the Sea Dogs Mother’s Day 5K, which will include her husband, Mark Cohen, and their four sons, who range in age from 17 to 10. “I’m always trying to get them to run with me. This is the one race they’ll all do willingly.”

Flaherty, 42, took part in the inaugural Mother’s Day 5K in 2001 and has missed only one since, because of a knee injury.

“I love the course and it’s a fun atmosphere,” she said. “Every year it seems to get bigger and bigger.”

Organizers expect to cap the field at 3,000 runners and walkers for a race that in Maine has become second in popularity only to the Beach to Beacon 10K. As of Friday afternoon, only 300 slots remained open.

The race is scheduled to begin on Park Avenue Sunday morning at 9:15 following a free Kids Run that begins on the Fitzpatrick Stadium track. Both races conclude with a dash through the center-field door of Hadlock Field and a finishing kick along the warning track to the third base dugout.

“That’s very fun, to actually run through the stadium,” Flaherty said. “I do warn everybody about starting their kick too soon” upon entering adjacent Fitzpatrick instead of waiting until the Hadlock warning track.

Christine Reaser of Dayton and Curtis Wheeler of Buxton return to defend their titles. Kristin Barry of Scarborough, the 2006 and 2007 champion, also is entered, as is six-time winner Ethan Hemphill of Freeport.

“I like the competition and it always comes at a good time of year,” said Reaser, whose 4-year-old will take part in the pre-race Fun Run. “It’s the first popular, big 5K of the year and it’s also for a good cause.”

Proceeds from the event benefit Maine Breast Cancer Research. According to Geoff Iacuessa of the Sea Dogs, $71,000 has been raised in the first nine years of the race, with more than half of that ($41,500) coming in the past three years.

“We put a little box on the entry form and online as well,” said Iacuessa, assistant general manager for sales and promotions. “In addition to the registration fee you can opt to include an extra donation, too.”

All mothers receive pink carnations after they finish. As in the Father’s Day 5K, the winners each receive a pair of Sea Dogs season tickets and the opportunity to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.

“I would give them out to every game,” Reaser said of the seats. “They were very popular with my son’s friends.”

Iacuessa said the reason for capping the field is to avoid a logjam at the finish, particularly on the narrow warning track and as runners exit through the gate near the first-base dugout.

“We want to make sure the experience is good for everybody,” he said. “Each year we’re afraid that at some point we’re not going to be able to handle the crowds finishing.”

Disposable timing chips, new this year, should help keep runners flowing through the finish area. Last year’s experiment with mother/son and father/son categories will not be continued, but 14 age categories remain, with trophies going three deep. Spectators in the Hadlock bleachers make the finish an exciting one.

“It’s kind of neat because they don’t really know what’s happening until you come in the back side of Fitzpatrick,” Reaser said. “Then it’s a sprint to the finish.”

“One more thing I think is incredible,” said June Tait, a physical therapist from Falmouth running for the second year in a row. “I’m obviously a working mom and I have a lot of patients who say there’s no time to exercise. The beauty of this race is that there’s a social element to it. You’re exercising and socializing and doing it with your family and friends.”

 

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

[email protected]