The Fourth of July is but two weeks away, and for a certain slightly warped demographic, the holiday first means neither fireworks nor salmon nor peas nor sparklers, and possibly not even Old Glory.

Instead, from York to Eastport and inland all over the state, Independence Day starts early with a road race, aka “another sufferfest,” as one competitor remarked to another while warming up before the L.L. Bean 10K a few seasons back. And I think those guys finished 1-2 that year.

Last year, a course record was set at this excellent Freeport event, as Ryan Woods, 30, visiting from Boone, N.C., ran 32 minutes, 1 second to break Mike Payson’s five-year-old record by 18 seconds. Auburn native Jeff Caron was second in 32:28, and Sheri Piers of Falmouth cruised to finish 10th and win the women’s division in 35:12, matching the women’s course record set the previous year by her running mate Kristin Barry of Scarborough.

In 2009 there were 880 finishers. Look for more than that this year, as more than 1,000 people had signed up online (see as of June 2, and 200 numbers will be available on race morning for the 7:30 a.m. start.

As you would expect, volunteers are needed for water stops, traffic control, food, setup and more. Volunteers receive a nice New Balance tech T-shirt, so e-mail race director Susan Baker at [email protected] to help out.

Although not as venerable a Glorious Fourth race as the venerable Perry-to-Eastport Charles E. Davis 7-miler, which began in 1970, the 4 on the Fourth in Bridgton is still pretty venerable. This year sees its 34th running, with an 8 a.m. start.

It’s also the state’s hugest July 4 race. There were 1,721 finishers in 2009, and race director Jim Cossey said this week that registrations are a good 100-plus ahead of last year at this time, with some 1,230 as of Thursday.

Like the Bean race, Bridgton draws scores, possibly hundreds, of loyalists for whom it represents a July 4 tradition. (Some of them are venerable, such as Bridgtonites Dirk Spruyt and Perry Martin, who are set to return at age 84.)

Many people have run more than 25 Bridgtons, and at least a couple say they have run them all. Altogether, the numbers are such that the 4 on the Fourth has been capped at 2,000, the most the race’s board thinks the roads can safely accommodate, Cossey said.

Improvements this year include disposable chips, and a start-line timing mat is being considered for next year as “we’re trying to bring the race into the modern era as much as we can, while avoiding passing on costs to runners.”

So it’s actually cheaper to sign up for Bridgton online ($15, rather than $17 on paper), especially with multiple, as in family, entries; see The 500 T-shirts are long gone, but a couple hundred will be on sale. Last year, Ben True of North Yarmouth won in 18:58, and Erin Flynn of Haverhill, Mass., was top woman in 23:40, eight seconds ahead of Carry Buterbaugh of South Portland.

And the storied Brewer-Bangor Walter Hunt Memorial turns 30 this year, is informally known as the Shinsplint 3,000 for its first-mile downhill, and bills itself “Maine’s Fastest Road Race.” (Not with me in it.)

Still, that first mile has been run in a brisk 4:05, by winner Riley Masters last year, and in 4:07, by record-sharer (8:10) Tim Wakeland in 1987, whose time was matched the following year by Gerry Clapper.

Wendy Delan’s women’s record of 9:28 goes back just as far, to 1988. These records have added significance this year because FinishLynx, a sponsor, is making a $1,000 donation to a charity chosen by a winner who runs under 8 flat, if male, or 9:20, if female. And the Sub5 Track Club will throw in a charity bonus of $100 per second under the goal times.

As for the record’s vulnerability, race director Margaret Capehart said a pretty stellar men’s field is expected, including defending champ (and sub-4 minute miler) Masters (8:16 last year), who will race in company with Louie Luchini, Rob Gomez and Mike Bunker. Women’s 2009 titlist was UMaine’s Brenna Walsh, out of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, in 10:18.

Race HQ is Brewer Auditorium, start time is 10:45 a.m., 15 minutes before the parade. Entry is a modest $10, or $30 for a family of four. The event is the eighth in the Sub5/Tradewinds road race series. See for more info, or contact Capehart at 947-7399 or [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]