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July 11, 2018 | last updated July 12, 2018 9:50 am

Millinocket Marathon looks at the long run as it organizes as nonprofit

Courtesy / Jessica Masse
Courtesy / Jessica Masse
The Millinocket Marathon, which started as a spur-of-the-moment idea by Mount Desert Island runner Gary Allen to help boost the town's economy, has been organized as a nonprofit to ensure it grows and remains sustainable, said John Hafford, the president of the 501(c)(3).

The Millinocket Marathon, which started as a spur-of-the-moment idea by Mount Desert Island runner Gary Allen to help boost the town's economy, has been organized as a nonprofit to ensure it grows and remains sustainable, said John Hafford, the president of the 501(c)(3).

"The idea is still to have something very unstructured," Hafford told Mainebiz on Tuesday. "We want to keep that unstructured, spontaneous open vibe, we still want people to do cool things while they're here, but we also want to build resilience into the event."

Much of the race will look the same to runners and fans — Allen will remain the race director, it will still be a qualifier for the Boston and New York marathons — but the added structure will help organizers to ride herd over promotions, sponsorships and all the details that go into hosting a marathon.

Runners will still run for free. Part of the idea behind the marathon is that there is no registration fee and runners are instead asked to spend an equivalent of that fee in town and the Katahdin region while they're there.

More than 1,100 runners finished the marathon and half-marathon on December 9, its third year.

In its first year, a bare bones unofficial run, the race drew 52 runners. In 2016, it drew 552 and got national attention, including an article in Runner's World magazine. In 2017, 1,856 runners from around the world registered for the race.

Marathon registrations can be expensive — it cost $295 to run the New York Marathon last year and the Boston Marathon was $180. The Maine Marathon, which is in September this year and is run in the Portland area, is $75 to $95, and the half-marathon is $50 to $70, depending on how early a runner enters. The Mount Desert Island Marathon, run in October, costs from $75 to $115, also depending on how early an entrant signs up. The half-marathon is $65 to $100. Both of those marathons raise a substantial amount of money for charity.

Allen said from the beginning that "a traditional race wouldn't work" in Millinocket in December.

"It would be a burden. As soon as people pay entry fees, they expect things," he said.

Registration money also pays for shirts, medals and other perks runners expect. At the Millinocket race, runners who wanted shirts or a medal bought them.

Fee money pays for things like timing services, portable toilets, fencing, shuttle transportation, municipal services and other incidentals. Many of the services for the Millinocket race were donated or covered by a variety of supporters, including more than a dozen local businesses, but and small.

About $30,000 was also raised with donations from runners and others who'd heard about the race for the race's two official donation causes last year, Our Katahdin, a nonprofit that funds microgrants as well as takes on some projects of its own, and Friends of the Millinocket Memorial Library.

Haffner said that incorporating the race as a nonprofit will give it the structure needed to allow it to continue to be a credentialed marathon, handle it as it grows, and track its impact on the community as well.

While no figures are available, those in town say the race has boosted the area economy.

Jessica Masse, Hafford's wife, said she visited the craft fair that's held race weekend and bought two knit hats for her children. "The woman I bought them from said, 'You're putting oil in my barrel,'" she said.

Masse said the race comes at a critical time of the year. Baxter State Park is closed and people who come to the area to hike, camp and fish are done for the year; the snowmobile season hasn't started. "To have an injection of economic activity litter means the difference for some businesses staying open [for the season]."

Masse and Hafford, who own Designlab, a marketing and graphics business on Penobscot Avenue in Millinocket, said other in-between season events would also help, and the marathon has already spurred one. The two were among Mainebiz's Next 2017 honorees.

On June 9, the Century Rice bike race was held, with 83 participants riding three distances. Founder William McAnirlin III, who lives in Newport, has run all three Millinocket Marathons and was inspired to start the bike race.

McAnirlin said Wednesday that he surveyed the participants, and his results show that the Century brought between $10,000 and $12,000 directly into the region's economy.

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