Runners leave the starting line at the 2019 Gorham Savings Bank Maine Marathon, Half Marathon and Marathon Relay. Race organizers are expecting more than 4,000 runners to take part in Sunday’s event. Joel Page/Press Herald file photo

Bob Dunfey, race director of the Gorham Savings Bank Maine Marathon, Half Marathon and Marathon Relay, knows that participation in road races has yet to climb back to pre-pandemic levels. Nationally, he said the decline is about 6%. Locally, however, Dunfey sees a different picture.

“We’re up 10%,” he said. “We keep freshening the Maine Marathon every year.”

The 31st running of the three concurrent races, which start and finish near the intersection of Preble Street and Baxter Boulevard in Portland, is scheduled to begin at 7:45 a.m. Sunday.

The weather forecast is much more promising than a year ago, when strong winds not only prevented organizers from erecting the traditional finishing arch, but resulted in Portland firefighters being called in to cut down an overhanging banner that was being blown so hard there was concern its anchoring telephone poles might topple.

Temperatures are expected to be in the low 50s at the start and rise to 72 in early afternoon, with winds peaking at 6 mph.

“I’m ordering more ice,” Dunfey said. “This will probably be the warmest (Maine Marathon) ever.”


The number of registered runners peaked in 2018 at 3,820, according to Dunfey, who said registration for this year’s event surpassed that mark earlier this week. He said he expects the fields to approach 4,200.

The course itself has been tweaked. Gone is the retrace-your-steps turnaround down a dirt road near Princes Point in Yarmouth. Making up that lost distance will be two jaunts off the main Route 1 to Route 88 thoroughfare, into neighborhoods in Falmouth and Cumberland.

Christine Hein of North Yarmouth is one of a handful of runners who are previous champions of both the half and full marathon races. She won the half in 2014 and the full in 2018.

“I love this race,” said Hein, a 48-year-old mother of five. “There’s always a ton of support along the course.”

Hein said she ran steadily throughout the pandemic, which wiped out nearly all races for almost two years. She returned to competitive distance running this spring at the Maine Coast Marathon in Wells on a hot day in May, winning the women’s title in 3 hours, 7 minutes, 6 seconds.

She said she doesn’t expect to challenge for the lead Sunday.


“Some of the women in the elite group are very, very talented,” she said. “I’m going to try to run by feel. I want to run my own race and be happy with it.”

Among those expected to contend for the women’s title are Emma Howe, who took up competitive running only after graduation from Boston College, and Tara Bozzini, who rowed crew at Brown University. Both are 27 and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

One aspect of the Maine Marathon that puts some extra pep in Hein’s step is the music sprinkled along the course. A dozen bands should inject a dose of energy into the race.

Hein’s personal favorite is Flukes, a ukulele ensemble that serenades runners passing the Town Landing Market in Falmouth. Some of her children learned ukulele as youngsters.

“It takes me back to when they were little,” she said. “It’s just such a happy sound.”

The men’s field appears wide open. Joe Satterfield, 46, of Bowdoinham and Robert Ashby, 55, of Brunswick each broke 2:40 last year in finishing sixth and seventh, respectively, and are back. Ryan Eiler of Boston, who broke the event record by winning last year’s race in 2:19:19, will not defend his title.


Ben Ludovici of Syracuse has a 2:33 personal best and will make his Maine debut. A fourth-grade teacher in Liverpool, New York, Ludovici has run a marathon in every other New England state, and about 20 overall.

Ludovici ran the Jersey City Marathon in April in 2:42. He said he doesn’t expect to challenge for the lead Sunday.

“I never really enjoyed running until after college,” he said. “Now it’s a chance for me to reset my body and get into a meditative state, to go out and enjoy the environment, and just clear my mind.”

The event record for runners finishing the marathon is 1,018 set in 2014. For the half marathon, it’s 2,039 in 2010.

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