Running in Acadia National Park a real and virtual delight

Scaling the Goat Trail and jumping off low rock ledges, Kristy Sharp discovered a new loop over the weekend for running in Acadia National Park, along Norumbega Mountain.

acadia centennial trek

Kristy Sharp flies off a low rock ledge on Norumbega Mountain, as she lives up to her virtual Acadia Centennial Trek trail name of @TrailWitch. (Photo courtesy of Kristy Sharp)

“Not one of my usual routes but it will likely go on my rotation. It was great!!” said Sharp, a certified personal trainer in Southwest Harbor, in an e-mail. She’s run the Mount Desert Island Marathon and Half Marathon the last couple of years, and is participating in virtual runs, featuring portions of the MDI race routes, to celebrate Acadia’s Centennial this year.

Running in Acadia National Park attracts both area residents like Sharp, and visitors from around the world, with the dramatic scenery, the challenging trails and the miles of well-graded carriage roads. No wonder area races draw thousands of runners a year. This year’s MDI Marathon and Half Marathon is on Oct. 16, and the MDI YMCA Bar Harbor Bank & Trust Fall Half Marathon, on Sept. 17.

New this year: Virtual running in and around Acadia National Park, to bring the experience to anyone anywhere in the world, whether they’re logging miles on a treadmill or walking in their neighborhood, whether they are lifelong fans of Acadia or have never stepped foot in Maine. Virtual races are a growing fitness trend, with even Disney getting into the act, with some offering T-shirts, finisher’s medals or a chance to raise funds for charity.

acadia national park virtual runs

The first-ever virtual running of the Mount Desert Island Marathon and Half Marathon routes is an official Acadia Centennial event. At least 5% of gross proceeds from virtual runs’ registration fees go to help support the park. Registration deadline is Oct. 3.

We’re co-sponsoring the first-ever MDI Marathon and Half Marathon – Acadia100 Virtual Edition with Crow Athletics and MDI Marathon, powered by, to help raise funds for the park, as an official Acadia Centennial event.

The virtual races, which go live from Oct. 7 through Oct. 16, allow participants to log their running or walking miles over those 10 days. They watch their progress on a virtual map of the real-life 26.2-mile and 13.1-mile race routes, and see Google Street Views® where available for the day’s ending mileage. Finishers get a special Acadia Centennial Medallion. Special pricing for registrants in the real-life races. Registration ends Oct. 3.

We’re also sponsoring a free year-long virtual 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek, which certified personal trainer Sharp has completed not just once, but three times, under her Trek name of @TrailWitch.

“Running is good for my soul, so I try to make time to run every week,” said Sharp, who’s a personal trainer at the Harbor House Fitness Center in Southwest Harbor, and continues logging her miles on the Trek even though she is beyond the virtual finish line, three times over. While she won’t be running the real-life MDI Marathon or Half this year, she’ll be volunteering at the real-life finishing line for those races, which end right in front of the Harbor House.

Be real or virtual while running in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island have long been a favorite for runners. Countless area races, and local running clubs like Crow Athletics and Eden Athletics, keep the interest high.

virtual runs

If you can’t do the real thing on Oct. 16, the next best thing is the Acadia100 Virtual Edition, running live from Oct,. 7 through Oct. 16. (Image courtesy of MDI Marathon)

The MDI Marathon started in 2002 and has won numerous accolades, with the latest coming last year, when it was named 2015 New England Runner race of the year. MDI YMCA’s Fall Half Marathon is in its 39th year, and the lead sponsor, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, was recognized this year in the American Bankers’ Association Journal for its support of the race and the Acadia Centennial.

Among the other area races, many of which go to help support local non-profits: MDI YMCA’s Acadia Half Marathon in early June, Ellsworth Library’s My Way 5K in June, and Down East Family YMCA’s Veterans Day 4Miler (Nov. 13 this year).

MDI Marathon

Real life MDI Marathon course map and elevation profile. (Image courtesy

Also keeping the interest high in running in Acadia National Park: Articles highlighting rave runs in national parks, the most recent one featuring Acadia’s historic carriage roads, published in

Virtual runs in Acadia National Park, while new this year, have also started creating a sense of community.

Early registrants in the first-ever virtual running of the MDI Marathon and Half have been posting on those virtual races’ message boards, looking for others to run with while they’re visiting Acadia.

For example, @Ging, of Austin, TX, who’s signed up for the virtual MDI Marathon, is looking for someone to run with while visiting Bar Harbor Oct. 7. And @jzf1, who’s signed up for the virtual MDI Half, is wondering if anyone else is also signed up for the real-life MDI Half. (Racers pick their own screen names, as signified by the @ symbol. Ours is @AOMM, for Acadia on My Mind.)

The year-long virtual 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek has been generating a similar camaraderie.

acadia centennial trek

The standings for the inaugural virtual 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek as of the morning of Sept. 7. Nearly 300 people have signed up, and more than half have finished. Race ends Dec. 31. Free registration, option to purchase Acadia Centennial Medallion to help raise funds for the park.

Nearly 300 people worldwide have signed up for the Trek, and 163 of them have completed the inaugural course as of this writing, whether by running, hiking, walking or step-counting. Some have even arranged to meet in real life, via Acadia Centennial Trek meet-ups or other impromptu gatherings.

Participants have included park rangers like @RangerMo (Maureen Fournier); Friends of Acadia volunteers like @linnane (Jim Linnane); long-time summer residents like @HikingWithPups (Shelley Dawson of Baltimore); area retirees like @Grin and @Grinny (Julie and Roger Grindle of Hancock); and, of course, @TrailWitch (certified personal trainer Sharp), a prolific “liker” of others’ Treks.

virtual runs

The virtual map of the MDI Marathon route. You have 10 days to log your 26.2 miles, whether it’s half a mile here and another couple of miles there, or all 26.2 miles or all in one go on the day of the actual MDI Marathon. Each day’s mileage entry moves your race avatar along the map (Bubble Rock is @AOMM, or Acadia on My Mind, at the starting line in Bar Harbor). Registration for the virtual MDI Marathon and Half Marathon is open now, and closes at the end of the day on Oct. 3.

Diehards who’ve completed the first running of the Trek have moved onto Parts II and III, all powered by Finishers of the free Trek have the option to purchase an Acadia Centennial Medallion (the same one that participants in the virtual MDI Marathon and Half get as part of their registration fee), to mark their accomplishment and help raise funds for the park.

Some finishers of the virtual Trek are also signing up for the virtual MDI Marathon or Half Marathon, because they can’t get Acadia off their mind, even if summer is winding down, and even if they might never run a real-life marathon or half.

That’s the case for Dawson (@HikingWithPups), who’s now back in Baltimore, and posted in the message board for the virtual marathon: “Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (where I’ll be running) is great, but it doesn’t hold a candle to MDI!!”

Deals for virtual Trekkers, racers in real-life MDI Marathon and Half

The special Acadia Centennial Medallion that’s available for optional purchase by finishers of the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek, is included in the registration fee for those signing up for the virtual MDI Marathon or Half Marathon. The medallion is made in the USA by Ashworth Awards, the same company that has made the finisher’s medal for the Boston Marathon and the MDI Marathon and Half.

acadia national park hiking

The Acadia Centennial Medallion, included with the registration fee for the virtual MDI Marathon and Half, and an optional purchase for those completing the free Acadia Centennial Trek.

So for any Trekkers who’ve already received their medal, and also want to sign up for the virtual MDI Marathon or Half Marathon but don’t want 2 of the same medals, they have these options: An Acadia Centennial holiday ornament of the same design that we’re developing, or an autographed copy of the 3rd edition of our Hiking Acadia National Park guide, which DownEast Magazine called “encyclopedic.”

We’ll cross-check finishers of the virtual Trek with those signed up for the virtual MDI Marathon or Half to let them know of the options, but they can also let us know in the message board for the virtual MDI Marathon or Half.

At least 5% of the registration fees for the virtual MDI Marathon and Half Marathon go to help support the park, as does at least 5% of any direct purchases of the Acadia Centennial Medallion or autographed books through our online shop.

MDI Marathon lobster claw finisher's medal

If you run the real-life MDI Marathon on Oct. 16, you have earned the right to wear this crusher claw. And if you also register for the virtual edition, you get a special price and the Acadia Centennial Mediallion as well. (Photo courtesy of MDI Marathon)

Final note to virtual Trekkers who also want to register for the virtual MDI Marathon or Half: You need to have completed the 100-mile Trek (whether Part I, II or II) by Oct. 3, before you can sign up for the virtual MDI Marathon or Half using the same e-mail and screen name. That’s because you can only be entered in one race at a time. But if you can’t quite finish the 100 miles by Oct. 3, the registration deadline for the virtual marathon and half, you can sign up using a different e-mail and screen name, although those miles won’t automatically be linked to your original profile.

For registrants in the real-life MDI Marathon or Half, they get a special price for registering for the virtual edition of the races, $28 for the virtual half and $30 for the virtual full (vs. $33 and $35 for those who aren’t also in the real-life versions of the races). The price includes the Acadia Centennial Medallion and free shipping in the USA.

mdi marathon

If you’re running by this Shell and Circle K during the real-life MDI Marathon or Half Marathon, or get a Google Street View(R) of it while doing one of the virtual races, you’re almost at the finish!

And they get to pair the world-famous crusher claw finisher’s medal from the real-life MDI Marathon or Half with the special Acadia Centennial Medallion from the Acadia100 Virtual Edition.

We’ll cross-check registrants in the real-life MDI Marathon and Half with those signed up for the virtual editions to ensure the proper registration. Anyone with questions can post in the message board for the virtual races.

Tips from @TrailWitch for real-life and virtual running in Acadia

Whether you’re getting ready for the real-life or virtual MDI Marathon or Half, these favorite trails and training tips from certified personal trainer Sharp (a.k.a. @TrailWitch, her screen name) may come in handy:

acadia national park hiking

On the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, @AOMM, @TrailWitch, @RangerMo and @4000footer (trail names from the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek) scaled Acadia Mountain in real life. (Photo courtesy of Kristy Sharp)

Acadia Mountain – “My all-time #1 favorite,” said Sharp in an e-mail. “I can start out with a ‘warm up’ on the fire road and then take on the mountain from the east face…, always a gentle tap on top of the summit marker and a quick 360 view, and then a nice fast down the mountain for an approximate 3-mile loop.”

Speed – “I stick to the carriage roads and love the Witch Hole (go figure) / Paradise Hill loop!”

Cardio – “If I’m in the mood for 19 +/- minutes of digging in to sheer will power, I head up the Perpendicular Trail! For a quick cardio hit, I fly around Flying Mountain (great views and a nice loop).

Endurance – “My favorite endurance training route starts at Blackwoods Campground, taking Cadillac…South Ridge Trail up and over to Dorr…cross the road to Beachcroft Trail (mind you, I’m pretty much hiking real fast at this point) to Champlain Mountain, then down the Champlain South Ridge up and over Gorham to the new Otter [Cove] Trail…and back to Blackwoods Campgrounds. Exhausted and feeling like a rock star!”

To round it all out, in what she calls “@TrailWitch’s Best Advice,” Sharp recommends the following for trail and long-distance runners, whether getting ready for a real or virtual race:

“DON’T overlook the importance of total body strength and balance training; BELIEVE IN YOUR ABILITY (whether you’re going fast or slow…you’re going and that’s magical) and MAKE IT MEANINGFUL and FUN! Find a training plan that works for you; your current fitness level; your schedule and STICK WITH THE PLAN. NEVER, EVER give up and ALWAYS, always stick to the training plan. It will prepare you for the event (physically) and give you the confidence (mentally) to finish the challenge.”

And to keep that motivation going, whether Sharp is helping others with training, or getting ready herself for the next challenge, she likes to cite this quote from Henry Ford:

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t…you’re right.”

Words to live by, whether you’re running in Acadia National Park in real life, or virtually.

Scenes from a year of virtual runs

And if you missed the earlier blog posts featuring photos from a year of virtual Acadia running, trekking or trekking, check out this postthis post and this post.

acadia centennial virtual run

Jennifer VanDongen of Bar Harbor came in first in the inaugural virtual 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek, by completing the race in just 8 days. Congratulations on the medal! (Photo courtesy of Jennifer VanDongen)

acadia national park running

Kristy Sharp runs past a Bates cairn on Norumbega, as she logs her miles for the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek. (Photo courtesy of Kristy Sharp)

perpendicular trail

Running down the Perpendicular Trail is easier than running up it, whether you’re in training for the real-life MDI Marathon or Half, or the virtual version.

mount desert island marathon

Take in the view of Acadia Mountain across Somes Sound, as you run along Sargent Drive. The new park wayside exhibit properly describes Somes Sound as a fjard, after geologists determined the sound didn’t meet all the characteristics of a fjord.

mount desert island marathon tree

When you run by this tree on Sargent Drive in real-life on the MDI Marathon route, or you get a Google Street View(R) photo of it after you log your day’s mileage on the virtual route, you know you’re more than halfway there.


The view from Somesville, east toward Norumbega and Sargent, whether you’re running the real-life or virtual MDI Marathon or Half Marathon.

somesville bridge

Whether in real life, or along the virtual MDI Marathon and Half Marathon route, this view in Somesville is picture perfect.

kurt diederich's climb

While training for the real and virtual MDI Marathon, we pay our respects to Kurt Diederich, who is buried in the Milton Cemetery in Massachusetts. Kurt Diederich’s Climb, a memorial path funded by his aunt, helped convince President Woodrow Wilson to create a national monument to preserve what would become Acadia.

Snapping turtle along the Acadia Half Marathon route, taken by @AOMM as she logged her miles for the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek at the same time.

Snapping turtle along the Acadia Half Marathon route, taken by @AOMM as she logged her miles for the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek at the same time.

acadia national park hiking

You too can earn the right to this Acadia Centennial Medallion, as pictured here at the Mansell Mountain outlook, at the top of the Perpendicular Trail.

mount desert island marathon

You’ll be heading toward this crosswalk outside of the Harbor House in Southwest Harbor as you race to the finish, whether in real life or virtually.

Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

About Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

Dolores Kong and Dan Ring are co-authors of the Falcon guides Hiking Acadia National Park and Best Easy Day Hikes Acadia National Park, and also blog at They’ve backpacked the 270-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and are members of the Northeast 111 Club, having hiked all major peaks of the Northeast. Dolores, a former staff reporter at The Boston Globe, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional and senior vice president with Winslow, Evans & Crocker, Inc. (member of FINRA/SIPC) in Boston. Dan, a journalist and former Statehouse bureau chief in Boston for the old Ottaway News Service and for The Republican, the daily newspaper for Springfield, Mass, is also an operations professional with Winslow, Evans & Crocker, Inc. (member of FINRA/SIPC), in Boston. They are married and live outside Boston.