A year ago, Rob Gomez spent Independence Day running around — in the most literal sense — Maine’s most famous island.
He and a fellow Waldoboro native Jeff Sprague, completed a 61-mile circumnavigation in the Around Mount Desert Island Fourth of July Relay. Up to nine runners can team up for the relay, but Gomez and Sprague figured they could handle it themselves.
Most local runners won’t be nearly so ambitious Thursday, opting instead for one of the seven other road races around the state, from a 4-miler in York to a 3K from Brewer to Bangor. The two biggest races, in terms of participants, are the 37th annual Bridgton 4 on the Fourth and the 36th L.L. Bean 10K in Freeport.
Gomez, 29, will be running the Bean 10K for the first time.
He has run some fast 5K races lately and was the top Mainer at this spring’s Boston Marathon (2:22:53) but hasn’t done a 10K since last August’s Beach to Beacon.
“It’s kind of an unknown,” said Gomez, who now lives in Saco. “I don’t know how I’ll hold up. It will be interesting to see how things play out in the latter stages of the race.”
Falmouth native Jonny Wilson won the 2012 race but won’t defend his title because of an injured heel. He just started workouts last week and is hopeful of competing in the Clam Festival 5-miler in Yarmouth later this month.
Scarborough’s Erica Jesseman, the 2012 women’s winner, said she will return to Freeport on Thursday. A year ago she arrived at the starting line with question marks because of injuries. This summer, “I feel like I’m in shape,” said Jesseman, 24. “I feel like I can run a decent time.”
The 2011 Bean winner, Sheri Piers of Falmouth, will be in Atlanta for the second straight year, defending her women’s masters title at the Peachtree 10K Road Race.
Proceeds from the Bean race benefit the YMCA of Southern Maine to the tune of $160,000 over the past 11 years. More than 1,400 runners have registered for the race, and an additional 100 bibs will be made available at packet pickup Thursday before the 7:30 a.m. start.
Oh, and don’t be late. The southbound Downeaster train is scheduled to rumble across Bow Street at 7:20 a.m.
The race director, Jim Gott, said that he hopes to have the field behind the starting line by then.
IN BRIDGTON, Silas Eastman will continue a tradition that began before he turned 10. He used to run the 4 on the Fourth with his brother, Seth, and their mom, but now Silas, a recent graduate of Fryeburg Academy and the Maine Sunday Telegram High School Athlete of the Year, runs it alone.
“It was a big shock for me (to win last year’s race),” said Eastman, who is headed to Colby College this fall. “In all the years I’ve run it I never imagined it happening, and definitely not when I was still in high school.”
Online registration for the Bridgton race closed Monday night at close to 2,000 entries. About 125 bibs remain available at early pickup Wednesday from 4-6 p.m. and, if any remain, on race morning.
Race director Jim Cossey said he had yet to receive a registration from the 2012 women’s champion, Emily Ward of Richmond, Va., although “she said she’d come back,” he said.
Among the challengers to Eastman are Pete Bottomley of Cape Elizabeth (third last year) and Kyle Rhoads of Windham (10th). Four of the top seven women return: 2. Cathleen Balantic of Niantic, Conn.; 4. Sara Bradley of Waterford; 6. Erin Saulnier of Revere, Mass.; 7. Jeanne Hackett of Scarborough.
The field includes entries from 34 states and 13 foreign countries, Cossey said. The top two states are Maine and Massachusetts, followed by New Hampshire (92), Connecticut (82) and California (72).
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at [email protected]