PORTLAND – Evan Graves has been drier, arrived sooner and felt better physically at the end of a marathon.
Until Sunday, however, the physical education teacher from Caribou had never felt such a strong pull toward a finish line.
Behind the tape, shielded from persistent rain and tucked in a stroller, awaited Emma Graves, born in June.
“She braved the weather to watch her daddy run,” said Graves, tilting a head wreathed in laurel leaves to peek in at his daughter. “That made it extra special.”
Taking advantage of Aroostook County’s potato harvest break from school, Graves headed south with his wife and daughter and won the 20th running of the Maine Marathon in 2 hours, 36 minutes and 53 seconds on a wet, gray morning with temperatures in the low 50s. A stiff headwind greeted runners heading north over the Martin’s Point Bridge into Falmouth.
“I think the worst part of the rain was the beginning, just waiting for (the race) to start,” said Stephanie Crawford, the 2007 women’s champion who prevailed again Sunday in 3:07:08. “After that, it was fine.”
The Maine Marathon and Half Marathon is an event known for its glorious autumn weather — bright sunshine, colorful foliage and the sparkling waters of Casco Bay. But this one seemed jinxed from the get-go.
First, roughly 600 volunteers mistakenly affixed two timing strips to each bib horizontally, to the tops and bottoms, instead of vertically, as is necessary for the embedded circuits to be read by timing mats. Out went a mass e-mail instructing runners to wear their bibs sideways.
“I thought that was a joke,” said Kristin Barry, the women’s half marathon winner. “Like someone hacked into (the race director’s) e-mail.”
The rain played havoc at the finish, preventing the use of a computer system at the announcing booth and for the posting of results and leading to the cancellation of awards ceremonies. Organizers will mail prizes and certificates to winners.
“Next year I’m going to advertise the race as the Maine Marathon Crooked Bib Race,” joked co-director Howard Spear. “Something like that.”
Joan Benoit Samuelson of Freeport had toyed with the idea of making Sunday’s race her first marathon on Maine soil. Until she saw the forecast, that is.
Samuelson wound up running the half marathon, finishing fourth, and barely pausing to wrap a silver-and-white reflective cape around her shoulders before quickening her pace across Forest Avenue to a waiting shower.
“If I wanted to go for a time, there are other fall marathons available,” Samuelson said when reached by phone at her home. “I thought it would be fun to be part of the 20th. My hats are off to all the runners and especially the volunteers out there. That was an incredible gift.”
Barry, 37, won the women’s half marathon in 1:19:27. Andrew Combs, a 2006 Bowdoin graduate who grew up in Philadelphia and now attends business school in New York City, won the men’s half marathon in 1:09:20.
Both Graves and Crawford won their marathons by less than a minute. Graves held off Lucas Churchill, a graduate of Gray-New Gloucester High now living outside of Boston, by 33 seconds.
“Evan and I were right together until halfway,” said Churchill, 31. “He made a little move and I just couldn’t answer and I was looking at his back the rest of the way. He ran a great race.”
Graves becames the first man to win both the half marathon and the full Maine Marathon. He won the 2008 half marathon in 1:09:03. Barry is the only woman to accomplish that feat.
As for Crawford, she was surprised to see 29-year-old Laura Hutchinson of Holyoke, Mass., catch her at Mile 25 of the 26.2-mile out-and-back race.
“Honestly, I thought she was going to get me,” said Crawford, 34, a speech pathologist from Dover, N.H. “I felt done.”
Instead, Hutchinson barely had time to say hello.
“You just took right off again,” Hutchinson said. “Your last mile must have been quick.”
Crawford finished with a cushion of 32 seconds over Hutchinson, a former collegiate rower who said she hadn’t completed a marathon in four years because of a series of injuries.
“I was almost in tears the whole last mile,” she said, “because I’m just really happy to be here.”
And what was baby Emma’s reaction? Her father wasn’t sure. She was asleep in the stroller.
“She’s here in spirit,” Graves said. “It’s good to know she was there. That was extra motivation coming in.”
He looked up with a pained expression.
“Is there a massage tent?”
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: