The Trail to Ale road race has been raising money for Portland Trails to expand and improve its trail system for 20 years. Courtesy/ Russell Caron Photography Inc.

PORTLAND —  Portland Trails Executive Director Kara Wooldrik said her organization wouldn’t be where it is today without an event started 20 years ago that combined the local running community with the local beer scene.

Portland Trails’ Trail to Ale, set for Sunday, Sept. 15, starts and ends at the Eastern Promenade and includes a loop of the Back Cove Trail. Courtesy of Corey Templeton

On Sunday, Sept. 15, approximately 1,500 runners and walkers will be coming out for the 20th annual Portland Trails’ Trail to Ale 10K, a benefit for Portland Trails.

Last year’s race was won by Robert Gomez, a Portland resident, who finished the course in 31 minutes and 52 seconds. The top female-finisher, Marah Borgman, of Portland, finished with a time of 38:11.

The 6.2-mile race begins and ends on the Eastern Promenade and much of the course utilizes the Back Cove Trail, the first trail added to the Portland Trail network. The race includes a block party at the finish line featuring local beer, pizza, yoga, massages and a dance party.

“Compared to many other races, we really focus on community, as evidenced by our after-party being as big an event as the race,” said Mark Goettel, the race’s director for the last 12 years. “We want to bring people together to understand the charity they are supporting.”

Since 2000, the event has raised approximately $250,000 for the organization, now in its 30th year.

“In that time, the trail network has grown exponentially,” she said.

When the race started in 2000, Wooldrik estimates there were around 15 miles of trails in the organization’s network across the city. That number has since swelled to 70 miles through Portland, South Portland, Falmouth and Westbrook.

“It’s a whole different trail network now, just like it is a different greater Portland than it was 20 years ago,” Wooldrik said.

The race is the largest fundraiser for the group, which also receives funding from private donations, membership fees, grants and other fundraisers. The organization does not receive funding from the city of Portland.

Trail to Ale 10K race director Mark Goettel expects about 1,500 runners at this years event. Courtesy photo

While many of the donations Portland Trails receives are from foundations and are earmarked for certain projects or trails, funding from an event like Trail to Ale allows Portland Trails to use the money wherever it is needed.

“This type of funding event generates unrestricted money,” Wooldrik said. “That is a huge benefit for us because it allows us to be flexible.”

The event, Wooldrik said, is much more than a run for the organization and the community. Through the years, Wooldrik has heard stories of families running the race together, marriage proposals at the finish line and reunions for old running partners.

“This is really a local community-building event,” she said.

Goettel said over the years, Trail to Ale has been a great event for the city and every year hears from a family that travels to the state and makes a weekend out of the road race.

“It is the perfect time of year to visit Maine, so a lot of people plan a visit around this event,” he said.


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