The Duo Duel is a road race with a twist.

The George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute, the designated beneficiary, will receive a gift in a nontraditional manner — through a road race, not through a seasonal event or a gala.

And the format isn’t the typical point A to point B race. Instead, two runners will team up Saturday in Portland to run a 10-kilometer course.

Sponsored by the Maine Red Claws and Quirk Chevrolet, the 10-kilometer run will begin and end at the intersection of Commercial and Maple streets.

Each runner will follow a 5K course along Commercial Street along the waterfront to East End Beach, then return by way of Fore Street to the intersection of Commercial and Maple, where the runners will meet the anchor leg of the two-person relay, who will complete the final five kilometers.

“When I talk to people, they ask about it but I think runners think (the relay) is a cool concept,” said Brian Curtin, the St. Joseph’s College athletic director who is part of the race committee. “Relays have become more popular and we get questions of, ‘What do we use for a baton? What if I don’t have a partner?’ “

Runners without partners will be paired with another runner. And instead of carrying a metal baton, each runner will hand off a snap bracelet, a small, flexible piece of plastic that wraps itself around a runner’s wrist.

“The idea behind it was that we thought the teamwork in road racing is something you don’t get a lot of,” Curtin said. “You run relays in track and field, and relays on the road are a little more popular.”

Since 1995 the Mitchell Institute has awarded nearly $8 million in scholarship money and financial assistance to Maine high school students, chosen on the basis of academic promise, community service and financial need. Each year, 130 high school students in Maine are selected as recipients.

“There’s nothing like this kind of race in Maine,” said Bonnie Titcomb Lewis, the director of advancement for the Mitchell Institute. “The partnership we have with the scholars, it’s a representation of what (Curtin) brought to us. The only way we solve problems is to partner together.”

For Lewis, the idea of a road race that would give its proceeds to her organization is especially meaningful. Not only does she oversee fundraising for the organization, but she is a former state senator, former educator and former high school track coach at Gorham.

“We’ve never had a road race select us as a beneficiary,” Lewis said. “When (Curtin) was looking at the theme, a partnership, that’s why we were selected, because we partner with young people. I was a track coach so this was thrilling. It was something that was near and dear to my heart and when I was told we would be the beneficiary, it was a ‘yes!’ moment.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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