FREEPORT — More than a thousand runners got a sweaty start to Independence Day in Freeport in Thursday’s 42nd annual L.L. Bean 4th of July 10K.

“It’s just a July 4th tradition,” said race director and former four-time winner Ethan Hemphill. As race director, Hemphill heads the all-volunteer committee of L.L. Bean employees that organizes the race.  “It just goes hand-in-hand with the tradition of L.L. Bean and the heritage of the company.”

Created in 1978 by Leon Gorman, the late president of L.L. Bean, the race began as a way to get employees together and active on the holiday. Gorman passed away in 2015.

The event has become a staple of Maine’s summer racing circuit.

“It’s just a really cool event where you’ll always get a competitive field,” said Portland’s Michael Gordon, 40, who won the event in 34 minutes. “It’s an honest course — it’s not easy.”

Gordon placed seventh last year as Ryan Smith of Farmington won his second straight. Smith is taking this year off to attempt to qualify for the Olympic trials in the marathon.

Temperatures hovered in the mid-60s as finishers approached the finished line at 8 a.m, a welcome reprieve from the hot and humid temperatures of years past.

Heather Gallant, 38, of Wayne, won the women’s event in 37 minutes, 49 seconds.

“It’s a difficult course,” said Gallant, who ran in the race for the first time. “I’ve been running 5Ks on the course and I decided to step it up to see where I’m at for Beach to Beacon (10K).”

Gallant will run in the Beach to Beacon for the third time in August. She finished seventh in the female 35-39 age division in 2018.

For local running celebrity Joan Benoit Samuelson, 62, the Freeport course is well-trod territory. Samuelson, who won the gold medal in the women’s marathon at the 1984 Olympics, completed the race for the 34th consecutive year, this time in 40:27 to finish first in the women’s 60-64 age division and eighth overall among women.

“I felt surprisingly strong in the heat and humidity,” said Samuelson. “Not quite fast enough to go under 40 (minutes), but I held my own out there.”

Her 34-year consecutive streak is a personal record for Samuelson — in more sense than one.

“Leon was a good friend, and I know how much this meant to him and it means a lot to me, as well,” said Samuelson. “It’s a great celebration of our community and our sports, combined together on the holiday.”

The race benefits the Casco Bay Branch of the Southern Maine YMCA, located in Freeport. The approximately $370,000 raised since 2001 has subsidized the cost of YMCA summer camps for nearly 2,500 local children.

As for a 35th consecutive year for Samuelson?

“I sure hope so,” she said. “After that, no promises.”

The 10K was followed by a 1-mile fun run and walk and kicked off a full day of holiday festivities in Freeport, including a parade, live music at L.L. Bean and fireworks.


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