The Maine Marathon and half marathon were a tidy 85 percent full as of Thursday, with a total of 2,975 entries that includes more than 1,000 in the marathon. That’s 271 registrations over the previous week’s total, so with the event capped at 3,500, here’s the deal: It’s filling wicked fast.

Please note that registration (see www.mainemarathon.com) closes at midnight Sunday, Sept. 26, a week before the Oct. 3 event. That’s both online and mail-in, by the way. There are 71 relay teams signed up (they are, however, not included in the 3,500, and neither are the National Guard military tribute marchers — there were 47 last year — who will participate.

In 2009, 959 runners finished the marathon, 1,872 the half.

Improvements to the event, race co-director Howard Spear mentioned, include a timing mat at the marathon’s halfway point, more entertainment on the course (this is somewhat dependent on the weather), larger medals for marathoners and tote bags for everyone, including volunteers. “There’s a lot of (fall-event) competition, so it’s good to keep enhancing the event’s value for runners,” Spear said.

RUNNING SEASON does seem to peak just as the leaves turn, and here’s a great event for a demographic that won’t be doing marathons soon:

The third Diabetes Dash for Kids, which goes off on Sunday, Sept. 26, at the Greely High track in Cumberland.

Open to kids ages 3 through 12, the event includes nine races, from a 100-yard Mad Dash for 3- and 4-year-olds to “senior” mile (for 11-12), to a sibling race that goes up to age 14, to parent-and-child relays for three age groups (according to kids’ ages, not parents’). Guardians, grandparents, aunts, etc., count as “parents,” too.

Stuff starts at 8:15 a.m. with a DJ-fueled warmup on the track featuring a magnificent seven of local mascots, including Oakie, Slugger and Crusher. Please note there is no race-day registration and that the deadline is Thursday, Sept. 23. Sign up at www.diabetesdash.org (this is good for 10 free raffle tickets); visit the site for a printable brochure or pick one up at Maine Running Company at 563 Forest Ave., which is, on Saturday, the packet pickup location — and absolutely last-gasp-chance to sign up. The $15 per person entry fee is good for up to three races and includes a T-shirt, reusable totebag and even sunglasses (a nose thumb at the rain that plagued the previous two Dashes).

All proceeds from the race go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Raffle prizes — you can buy tickets or snag them by fund-raising — include an L.L. Bean kayak package, a sled, toys, gift certificates, two whitewater rafting trips, a four-ticket Sea Dogs game package and more. For more info or to volunteer, contact Kirsten Buchanan at 650-7324 or at [email protected]

THE PREVIOUS DAY, and also at Greely High in Cumberland and simultaneously at Windham High, the Esperanza 5K will be run (and walked). It also will be held the next day at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.

Formerly the highly successful Safe Passage 5K, the race has evolved into an event being held at various locations around the world, including Guatemala City where the late Hanley Denning was inspired to found the charity in 1999. There’s even a “virtual” create-your-own course component.

The fee is $18 prerace, $20 on the day. Start time is 8 a.m. At Cumberland, T-shirts go to the first 400. See www.safepassage.org/5k for full details and to register.

MARATHON WEEKEND isn’t only about the marathon. On Saturday, Oct. 2, the Running of the Wildcats 5-K (and 1-mile fun run/walk) will be held at Tremont Consolidated School at 9 a.m. and at 9:30 a.m., respectively.

The event benefits the school’s eighth-grade class trip (last year, to Montreal) and is the ninth in the Eden Athletics-Jack Russell Steak House series. Timing will be expertly performed by Ryan King.

The course, an out-and-back from the school on Route 102, is Maine-poetic (a little bridge over the marsh near the start, then along the Bass Harbor waterfront, to the turnaround at the Swan’s Island Ferry terminal, where “the view is amazing,” notes race organizer Carol Ann McEachern-Murphy); the fee is old-school ($10 until Sept. 25, then $12; the 1-mile is $5); and the T-shirts are limited edition (to the first 30 registrants in the 5K).

For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page or contact McEachern-Murphy at [email protected]

John Rolfe of Portland is a staff writer and a road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at:

[email protected]