From York with its 4-miler to Stonington with its 6 and Mount Desert Island with its tour du paradise 61.09-mile relay, July 4 is in terms of numbers Maine’s biggest day for road racing.

You could add it up. But don’t bother, I just did, and found that there were more than 6,000 finishers in a quick count of eight events.

The biggest crowd is always at Bridgton for the “venerable” (in seventh-year race director Jim Cossey’s term), 4 on the Fourth, which turns 36 on Wednesday. Last year there were 1,850 finishers, and Cossey said on Friday, while sorting race shirts at the town library, that “almost 1,300” runners had registered – this before the approximately 400 summer campers who annually swell the throng.

Cossey predicted 1,900-plus prerace entrants for the 8 a.m. classic, won last year by Jonny Wilson, 23, of Falmouth in 20 minutes, 19 seconds. Wilson will return to defend, Cossey noted. Women’s champ Erica Jesseman of Scarborough raced 22:10 in a top-10 finish (ninth place overall).

Course records belong to Colin Peddie (18:46, 25 years ago, and looking more impressive every year) and Michele Hallet (21:56, also in 1987). 

Early race-packet pickup takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the Memorial School on Depot Street. Speaking of shirts, the first 500 freebies were gone before March was over, but 150 will be on sale for $10 (cotton) or $20 (tech) at the race.

And speaking of the library, the 4-miler last year raised an impressive $22,500 for the privately owned institution; Cossey said organizers expect a similar contribution this year. For full race/registration info, go to www.fouronthefourth.com.

Not far behind Bridgton in years (35) and also within hailing distance in numbers (1,262 finishers in 2011), the L.L. Bean 10K is another top Maine race, in every sense. Which is a large part of why the cap of 1,500 entrants had almost been reached on Friday.

Defending champ Josh Zolla of Freeport, 32:47 in 2011, will be back, race director Jim Gott said.

But top woman Sheri Piers, fourth overall in 36:06 last year, is running the Peachtree 10K in Atlanta on Wednesday.  Jesseman is expected to race at Freeport, though.

Also lining up for the 7:30 a.m. start for the 27th time is townie and Olympic champion Joan Benoit Samuelson, who set the event record of 34:03 in 1988. Samuelson’s trove of Ts and trophies from the race will be on display at Town Hall, and she will sign autographs for a half-hour post-race, Gott mentioned.

To avoid the inevitable race-morning lines, take advantage of early packet pickup, from 5-8 p.m. on Monday and 4-8 p.m. on Tuesday.

The other event record, set on the slightly different course, is held by another Olympic marathoner, Steve Spence (29:47 in 1991).

Course records belong to Yarmouth’s Pat Tarpy, 30:52 in 2010, and Scarborough’s Kristin Barry, 35:12 in 2008.

This year, T-shirt design and 14-foot Bean boot banners will reflect the race’s turning 35 and L.L. Bean’s hitting the century mark. Sportscaster/writer Andy Schachat will handle announcing, and a start mat has been added, so net times will be recorded.

“We don’t have the capacity to grow in numbers, but we can focus on providing a festive atmosphere and a quality race, and enhance every runner’s experience,” Gott noted.

That includes generous prizes, but I am indifferent to those, and content with four well-placed water stops (miles 1.5, 3, 4.5 and 5.6) and postrace muffins and watermelon.

This year, New Balance donated 200 pairs of shoes, which go to lottery winners, in addition to donating the tech shirts. Proceeds from the all-volunteer event go to the Casco Bay Y; last year, a handsome check for $25,000. See www.llbeanroadrace.com for more …

And up north, “Maine’s Fastest Road Race” will be held for the 32nd time. The 10:45 a.m. preparade cavalry charge from Brewer across the Chamberlain Bridge to Bangor is the Walter Hunt Memorial 4th of July Road Race, a 3K that has been nicknamed the Shinsplint 3,000 for its downhill plunge.

Originally a 5K, explained race co-director Joe Capehart, the race honors Hunt, a runner and a former president of Dead River Company, which has sponsored the race all along, and still foots the T-shirt bill.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. at Brewer Auditorium. The $10 preregistration fee has passed, but race-day registration is $12, and there are deals for families.

The race, No. 7 in the Sub 5/Trade Winds Marketplace series, had a robust 584 finishers last year, as Bangor’s Riley Masters set a course record of 8:02 while three-peating, and Jen Dagan, who has since moved from Bangor, won in9:52.

(The women’s mark remains Wendy Delan’s 9:28 from 1988.) For more info, go to www.sub5.com and see the July calendar on the race schedule.     
 
DR. AQUILINO ALAMO
won his 45-mile, Rockport-to-Boothbay Harbor footrace against the schooner Timberwind on Monday. After a smooth 7:30 a.m. start, afternoon wind and rain hampered both competitors, but Alamo soldiered through the tough Route 27 miles and arrived at the Whale Park finish at 4 p.m. for a 45-minute victory. The “Jammer and Joggers” event was part of Boothbay Harbor’s Windjammer Days, marking its 50th anniversary.

John Rolfe of Portland is a staff writer and a road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at:
[email protected]