PORTLAND – Tucker, a black Labrador retriever, and his master, Steve Niles, led the pack at the Bayside Trail 5K Race through Portland Sunday.

But at one point the odds didn’t look so great for the duo. Tucker had the sudden need for a pit stop and Niles then had to stoop, scoop and find a trash container.

Still, the two won by a comfortable multi-second-lead in a race designed for both human and canine teams and dogless runners. It helped that Niles commutes by bike on the trail from his North Deering neighborhood into downtown Portland. Other runners less familiar with the path took a wrong turn, costing them valuable seconds.

“I feel sort of bad, but not that bad,” said Niles, who won a certificate for a new pair of running shoes from Maine Running Co., while Tucker was awarded a $150 Planet Dog certificate for his efforts.

Hundreds of entrants showed up for the race along the trail, which opened this summer. The Bayside Trail runs 1.2 miles from the Eastern Prom Trail to Elm Street behind the Trader Joe’s and Eastern Mountain Sports parking lot on Marginal Way.

Now trail supporters are trying to raise more than $1 million to connect the trail to Deering Oaks via a pedestrian bridge or tunnel across busy Forest Avenue and make other improvements.

Kathy Steinhagen of West Paris drove in with her Great Pyrenees, Buffy, to run with her daughter, Mandy Desrochers of South Portland. Although Buffy was on her maiden race, Steinhagen said Buffy’s sense of focus, a trait of her breed, would give them an edge.

A team of five runners from the Maine College of Art’s running club ran with the team mascot, Dexter.

“We are just trying to have fun,” said Rangeley Morton, a freshman from Chelmsford, Mass.

Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, teamed up with Tippi, his 3 1/2-year-old rescue mutt. He said his basic strategy was to keep Tippi moving forward.

“Just run the entire time,” Alfond said.

Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson kicked off the race on Commercial Street. Amidst barks and woofs, the crowd surged forward.

Gretchen Chick, a dogless runner from Brookline, Mass., was the first woman to cross the finish line. She said running the race to help raise money for the trail felt great.

“Even though I got beat by three dogs,” she said.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]