The Back Cove trail in Portland hosted two major charity events Sunday that attracted thousands despite a rainy morning.

At 9 a.m., 1,500 runners raced around Back Cove in the Trail to Ale 10K, which benefited the nonprofit Portland Trails.

Three hours later, about 1,000 people gathered on the trail to hold hands for Hands Around the Cove, which benefited the United Way of Greater Portland.

The Trail to Ale 10K is in its 17th year and raises about $20,000 for Portland Trails, which maintains 70 miles of trails in Greater Portland.

In the event co-sponsored by the Portland Press Herald and Cigna, runners start and finish at the Eastern Promenade, where beer and pizza await them at the end of the race.

Chris Harmon, 28, was the overall men’s winner, and he didn’t have to travel far to enter the race, as he lives on Munjoy Hill.


Harmon said he’s training for the Maine Marathon, which is on Oct. 2, and he enjoys the speedy Trail to Ale race, which features many downhill and flat sections. Harmon said he broke away from the pack at about the 1-mile mark, and stayed ahead to finish in 33:10.

“It’s a wonderful route, this is for a great cause and any race that has beer and pizza at the end is a great race,” said Harmon, who was the first Maine man to cross the finish line at this year’s Boston Marathon.

The women’s overall winner, Christina Argueta, 27, of New York City, graduated in 2011 from Bowdoin College, where she ran track and cross country. She said she’s getting married in Maine in two weeks, so she decided to run in the race while she’s here preparing for the wedding. Argueta also broke away from the pack at the 1-mile mark and finished in 38:35.

Kara Wooldrik, executive director of Portland Trails and the race coordinator, said most of the runners come from Greater Portland, and it’s a nice way to ease into the fall season after the tourists have left.

“It’s a great big community party after a fun and exciting race,” Wooldrik said.



Later, with the Portland skyline as a backdrop, about 1,000 people took part in Hands Around the Cove, which used different-colored flags to coordinate the hand holding.

When it was time to hold hands, a flag at one end of the line went up, and a section of people held hands. Then other flags were raised to signal it was time to clasp hands. People cheered when the final flag went up.

To breach gaps in the line, some strung sweatshirts and raincoats together to make the line longer. While it didn’t come close to wrapping around the entire Back Cove, organizers were pleased at the turnout for the event’s first year.

Hands Around the Cove was the brainchild of real estate agent Karen Jones, who said she was inspired one day while running on the Back Cove trail and imagined it filled with thousands of people holding hands.

“I just had this vision. It was one of those moments,” Jones said. She said the idea was approved as soon as she suggested it last year as a charity event for the Greater Portland Board of Realtors, which partnered with the United Way of Greater Portland for the event.

“It’s a great event, and symbolic of what we’ve done at the United Way for 87 years: wrap our arms around the community,” said Matt Hoidal, a senior vice president at the local United Way.


While Hands Around the Cove was reminiscent of Hands Across America – a coast-to-coast event at which about 6.5 million people held hands on May 25, 1986, to benefit efforts to combat homelessness and hunger – Jones said she had forgotten about that and the resemblance between the two was a coincidence.

Hands Across America was a cultural moment of the 1980s, with a “Hands Across America” song and participants that included President Reagan, Hollywood stars Lily Tomlin and Liza Minnelli, singer Michael Jackson, magician David Copperfield, Chewbacca from “Star Wars,” and Elvis and Abraham Lincoln impersonators, among others.

Hands Around the Cove raised about $30,000 for the United Way of Greater Portland.


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