Dan Vassallo of Massachusetts crosses the finish line at the 2007 Maine Marathon in a record time of 2 hours, 26 minutes and 52 seconds. In 2012, he shaved more than five minutes off that time while setting a new course record. Press Herald 2007 file photo

Dan Vassallo ran at Colby College. He interned with the Portland Sea Dogs. He cut his marathon teeth at the Maine Marathon, winning in his debut race in 2007 and setting a course record in the process.

Five years later, he returned to Portland and ran even faster.

That subsequent record – two hours, 21 minutes and 12 seconds – has remained intact for the past decade.

Although he grew up in Massachusetts and lives there still, he remains cognizant of Maine’s running circles. Nearly every autumn, it seems, he hears about another runner attempting to take down his Maine Marathon record.

The 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in Atlanta was to be his marathon swan song … until he got the urge to return to the place where it all started.

“I’ve read the Press Herald articles saying somebody somewhere is going after Vassallo’s record,” he said by phone from Peabody, Massachusetts. “I just feel like there might have to be a reminder that the guy who set that record didn’t suck.”


Now 37, Vassallo plans to take part in the 31st edition of the Gorham Savings Bank Maine Marathon, Half Marathon and Marathon Relay, scheduled for Sunday morning. The race starts and finishes near Back Cove in Portland, with a course that extends north along Routes 1 and 88 through Falmouth and Cumberland before looping back upon itself in Yarmouth.

Organizers expect more runners than last year – when vaccinations, negative COVID-19 tests and masks behind the start line were all in the mix. As of midweek, roughly 3,400 runners had registered for the in-person race, and another 100 for virtual distances.

An elite field of approximately 50 will take off from Baxter Boulevard at 7:45 a.m., followed quickly by the rest of the field. Prize money awaits the top five male and female finishers, with $1,000 for the marathon winners and a $500 bonus for a course record.

Four race beneficiaries will divvy up $60,000 in race proceeds from the all-volunteer event, said director Bob Dunfey: Through These Doors, World of Change, Stop Trafficking US and Wayfinder Schools.

Abby Hamilton, 23, of Yarmouth earned $1,500 last October in her debut at the 26.2-mile distance, lowering the women’s course record by 16 seconds to 2:39:38. Surgery on a torn Achilles tendon is preventing her from defending her title.

Two women expected to be among the marathon leaders Sunday are Caroline Pietrzyk, a former all-America cross country runner at Vanderbilt, and Lila Gaudrault, a second-year nursing student at the University of New England who lives in Cape Elizabeth.


Pietrzyk, 25, grew up in California, lives in Texas and plans to visit Acadia National Park after the race. She clocked a 2:50 in her debut marathon in January in Houston. That got her hooked on longer distances.

“I’ve always wanted to run longer races than I had run before, to challenge yourself at a very different distance than you get to run in college or high school,” she said by phone from Austin. “I’ve always wanted to go to Maine, always wanted to see Acadia. Because I’m a runner, I figured this was a great way to see that area.”

Gaudrault, 19, won Class B cross country state titles as a sophomore and junior at Cape Elizabeth High and twice earned all-New England honors. As a senior, however, she chose not to compete in cross country, in part because after 5 kilometers, she was just starting to hit her stride.

“I’ve never had much speed and always been kind of frustrated by the shorter distances,” she said. “I can take a pace and hold it for a long time. I just can’t get my legs to move that fast, so the longer I can be out there, the better.”

In May of her senior year, she attempted her first 50-kilometer trail race, the Big A 50K at Mt. Agamenticus in York. She was the first female finisher and second overall (of 43 runners), covering the 31.05 miles in a little under six hours.

This spring, she set a course record at the Big A 50K of 5:22. That 50K was sandwiched between her first two marathons. In April, she ran 2:56 in Derry, New Hampshire, and in May she ran 2:58 at the Sugarloaf Marathon in Carrabassett Valley.


Before the pandemic, Gaudrault had sought out NCAA Division I colleges with strong running programs. After embracing longer-distance running, however, she widened her search and focused more on academic interests. She is not involved in any varsity sports at UNE, a Division III school.

She said she has no concrete time in mind for Sunday’s race, but is hoping to lower her personal best.

“A marathon is such a long race, you can’t be too rigid in your goals,” she said. “You have to have some flexibility, because anything can happen.”

On the men’s side, Vassallo cannot be overlooked. He won the Philadelphia Marathon in 2014, finished 10th at Boston in 2018 and is a perfect 2-for-2 at this race. His best time was 2:17:30 in California three years ago.

Wesley Robinson, 25, of Colorado was a steeplechaser at the University of Tennessee who won his debut marathon last year in Denver with a 2:28 clocking. He also competed as a graduate student at George Washington, so has raced in the Northeast before, though never in Maine.

Like Vassallo, Robinson makes his living as an accountant. He has never run a half marathon, explaining that he likes “the all-in” with the marathon.

“Let’s not halfway do this thing, let’s do the whole thing,” he said. “I’m super excited to get out there, see what Maine’s like, and maybe even run fast.”

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