Trail runners start atop York’s Mount Agamenticus, southern Maine’s highest point, at 692 feet. But don’t let the three-digit elevation fool you! Runners head down, then back up, then down, then up a neighboring hill, and so on. The flexible course can be as short as 10 miles, but the full 31 (that’s 50 kilometers) gains 5,787 feet of elevation on the day — a Katahdin and then some.
One of a handful of great races on MDI that includes the Mount Desert Island Marathon (from Bar Harbor to Southwest Harbor) and the Bar Harbor Bank & Trust Half Marathon (along the carriage roads), this one has the distinction of following the Park Loop Road, past Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs, taking in some truly classic Maine scenery.
Maine doesn’t want for community fun-runs, but this Kennebunk 5K is one of the best, not only because the course takes runners across the sand on Gooch’s and Middle Beach, but also because the vibe is also lively and laid-back, with runners dressed up like pirates, mermaids, sea monsters, or Thurston Howell III (and prizes for best nautical getup).
“Weird, beautiful, and . . . with a cult following” is how race organizer Gary Allen describes this overnight run, along nearly 103 miles of mostly multi-use former-railbed trails in Hancock and Washington counties. Teams of up to eight split the route into manageable portions, running past moonlit blueberry barrens and landmarks like Schoodic Mountain, eventually arriving in the daylight to see lobsterboats bobbing off the Eastport waterfront.
This year should have been the celebratory 25th running of the road race that Maine Olympian legend Joan Benoit Samuelson founded in 1998. Instead, after two pandemic years off, it’s a celebratory return. Some 6,500 runners, from the world’s elite to the jogger next door, take to a stunner of a course, much of it along Cape Elizabeth’s verdant Shore Road, ending at Portland Head Light. Like running through a postcard.
This low-key gem of a trail race leads a max of 125 runners either 5 or 13.1 miles past quiet ponds and along mostly single-track paths at Jefferson’s Hidden Valley Nature Center. The shorter race is approachable but still hilly, with rocky and rooty terrain. That the prize is a homemade pie tells you all you need to know about the down-home atmosphere.
In its fourth decade, the popular fall marathon and Boston qualifier has a little something for everybody: a half, a 10K, a 5K, a relay. The course partially encircles Portland’s Back Cove before crossing the Martin’s Point Bridge into Falmouth, then Yarmouth, an urban-residential mix with Casco Bay views and lots of eye candy when foliage is peaking.
The good news is that the course is only three miles long. The bad news is it’s a sufferfest of a steep ascent from the base of Maine’s largest ski area to the top of its second-highest peak — some 2,500 vertical feet in all. Takes some constitution, but the reward is an unparalleled autumn tableau from the summit (also, a free beer).
It’s been called “one of the most beautiful trail races in the Northeast,” and it’s hard to argue — the rocky cliffs of the Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land, along which runners tackle either one, two, or three 10-mile loops, are arguably Maine’s most dramatic stretch of seaboard. The late-season race is also intimate, capped at just 60 runners.
At this absolute party of a winter race, runners start and finish between two fully loaded logging trucks and admire Katahdin along the route. It’s free to enter — what runners save on registration, they commit to spend around the Magic City, perhaps at the holiday market surrounding bib pickup. No other race has as many folks lining the course handing out Christmas cookies and Fireball shots.