PORTLAND — More than a hundred miles north of Boston’s Copley Square, Karianne Potter of South Portland crossed a finish line decidedly less crowded than the Boston Marathon.
Though she was running in the 85th Boys & Girls Clubs Patriots Day 5-mile road race, Potter wore a Boston Strong T-shirt in the marathon’s trademark blue and yellow.
“I try to show my support,” Potter said. “Just because of the memory of the bombings, I wanted to try to do my part by running (almost) one-fifth of a marathon.”
The crowd of runners was small at Portland’s running event. With only 351 finishers, it was the smallest race since at least 2008 – the last year it was run on a Monday.
In Boston more than 35,000 were registered to run 26.2 miles a year after two bombs brought death and destruction to the marathon finish.
“I had a lot of friends running Boston today and a bunch of elite runners from Portland were there today, and it’s always fun to follow your friends,” said the women’s winner, Michelle Lilienthal, herself an elite American runner who a month ago relocated to Portland from Minneapolis.
“Last year obviously it was a devastating event,” Lilienthal said. “That had really nothing to do with me wanting to race (in Portland), it’s just being a runner and having been a runner for a long time, Boston Marathon is a special day.”
Lilienthal finished fifth overall in a time of 28 minutes, 28 seconds. Chris Harmon of Portland was the men’s winner in 26:41.
Lilienthal, 32, has twice run the Boston Marathon; she was the second American woman to finish in 2006. She also has twice competed in the U.S. Olympic trials marathon, placing 22nd in 2012.
In October 2013 her personal-best time of 2 hours, 34 minutes in a fourth-place effort in the U.S. championships held during the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis met the A-standard qualifying for the 2016 Olympic trials.
Intending to run the first four miles at a hard conditioning pace and then push a little more in the fifth mile, Lilienthal said she got caught up early in the tempo.
“I ran harder than I should have for just a workout but it’s always hard to run a workout during a race. You always get into race mode,” said the Iowa City, Iowa, native and University of Wisconsin graduate.
Harmon, 26, a native of Scarborough, broke free from the pack early in the race and cruised to the win despite taking two wrong turns.
Eliot Conrad, 30, of Portland, a North Yarmouth native, finished second in 27:29. Mike Payson, 50, of Falmouth (27:45) and James Harrigan, 47, of Wolfeboro, N.H. (28:23), were the only other runners to top Lilienthal.
Harmon ran one minute faster last year while finishing second to Louie Luchini of Ellsworth.
“Louie killed me last year. He probably would have won by two minutes this year but he wasn’t here,” Harmon joked.
Harmon said he was thinking about the Boston Marathon before the race and noted the bombings always will tarnish the event.
“It’s always going to be a sad day no matter how nice it is, but if running shows you anything, you’ve got to keep going,” said Harmon.
Neither Harmon nor Lilienthal approached the course records of Sam Pelletier (23:34 in 1984) and three-time U.S. Olympian Lynn Jennings (26:24, 1985), set when the race was significantly larger.
This year there were just over 400 runners registering. The race had been run on Sundays from 2009-13 in an effort to rekindle interest.
Last year the race had 372 finishers and 439 total entries, the fewest entries of the five Sunday races.
A former Portland High runner and a current Harvard senior, Simon Thompson, 22, said a year ago he was in Cambridge, shocked by the news of the marathon bombings and worried for friends’ safety.
“No one I knew was hurt but I know lots of people who were affected in one way or another,” Thompson said.
Running in his hometown Monday, Thompson covered the course in 32:32, placing first in the men’s 19-24 age group.
“I don’t feel like I was doing anything overt by choosing to run today, but on a personal level it was just nice to have the time to reflect on the last year while running,” Thompson said.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: