Nobody turns 85 years old without acquiring some survival skills, and certainly that’s true of the Boys and Girls Club Patriots Day 5-miler. The oldest road race in Maine, and the third oldest in New England behind the Boston Marathon and Lexington (Mass.) Patriots Day 5-Miler, the storied Portland race will see its 85th running on Monday, April 21, beginning at noon a block east of the club on Cumberland Avenue.
There was a near-miss in 2007 – the race streak could have been crunched when a nor’easter blew in the morning of the race, flooding portions of the course and forcing a postponement. The race held on Veterans Day instead on an altered, off-street course – and a little more history went into the books. Ethan Hemphill of Freeport won for the sixth straight year, in 24 minutes, 45 seconds; Christine Snow-Reaser of Dayton nailed her fourth title, in 29:33.
Several years ago the 5-miler was moved from the Monday holiday to Sunday, in hopes of boosting dropping participation. This year, that Sunday is Easter, so to avoid potentially scary-low turnout, the race has been restored to its original, traditional Monday date.
There will be cash prizes – $175, $75 and $50 to the top three racers, male and female. And the Haley Challenge (instituted by longtime organizer Dan Haley about a dozen years ago and put up by Haley Insurance, still a major sponsor) continues: A $1,000 prize to the first male finisher to break 23:30 or first woman who goes under 27:50.
The 2010 race, with slightly softer time requirements, saw Kristin Barry of Scarborough cash in with a blazing 27:57 victory (second-fastest women’s time ever, after Olympian Lynn Jennings’ record 26:24 in 1985). The same year, Yarmouth native Pat Tarpy met the challenge, winning in 23:35, just two seconds off the 23:33 event record set by Sam Pelletier of Fort Kent in 1984.
The race has a rich Maine-Running-Hall-of-Fame history of performances down all its decades. The top multiple winners are Bob Hillgrove of Rockland, who began at age 17 and won six times in a row, 1964-69, then added a couple more wins, the last in 1974. Hillgrove’s female counterpart is Robin Emery of Lamoine, whose domination on Maine roads in the 1970s and ’80s included eight Patriots Day victories.
More recently, Louis Luchini of Ellsworth has flown over the loop course with its Back Cove midsection, winning in 24:38 last year and 24:20 in 2011.
In 2013 in the women’s division, Portland’s Meredith Anderson defended her title in 31:14. And of course there are different definitions of elite. Dennis Morrill, 74, of Portland first ran this race from 1958 to 1960. He skipped some years, restarted again in 1970 and will go for his 45th straight finish, and 48th overall.
A new race beneficiary, in addition to the BGC alumni association scholarship fund that has received $189,000 over the years, is The One Fund, to help people most affected by the finish-line bombings at the Boston Marathon last year. The club has committed to giving a minimum of $1,000.
As always, there’s a free 1-mile race for kids starting at 11 a.m. Sign up for that and/or for the 5-miler via mainetrackclub.com, runreg.com or baystateevents.com. Fees are $18 preregistration or $22 day of race. Perks include a T-shirt for the first 500 registrants, postrace pizza from Papa John’s and a general admission ticket to a Sea Dogs game. You’ll also be entered in a raffle to win two tickets to the Red Sox vs. Rays game at Fenway Park on Sunday, June 1. Packet pickup is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Maine Running Company on Marginal Way.
Please note that volunteers are needed; it takes about 80 to stage the race. If you’d like to help, please contact Haley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPEAKING OF impressive fundraising performances, how about last month’s Mary’s Walk and Kerrymen Pub 5K in Saco. The final total amount has yet to be determined, but as of last week the event in honor of Mary Kerry Libby had raised $301,182 to benefit the Maine Cancer Foundation. That’s already 20 percent over last year’s amount and should increase by $20,000 or so as matching pledges continue to arrive, said the cancer foundation’s Cullen McGough.
The race began as a small-town 4-miler 16 years ago and has raised about $2.5 million. The 2014 winner was Yarmouth’s Ben Decker, who was born one year before the race was. His 16:08 time was five seconds ahead of Andrew Van Hoogenstyn, 30, of Portland.
The women’s division was also tight, with master’s competitor Stephanie Atkinson, 43, of Hollis winning in 19:41 and South Portland’s Kristine Guaraldo, 37, 12 seconds behind.
John Rolfe of Portland is a staff writer and a road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at: