Racers with fun names like Incaprincess, SkiPrincess, TrailWitch and Sanity Clause – some hailing from as far away as Australia, Texas and New Mexico – are lining up at the start for the first-ever virtual runs of the Mount Desert Island Marathon and Half, to help raise funds for Acadia.
The virtual gun goes off on Oct. 7, and racers have 10 days to complete the virtual runs, with the final day coinciding with the real-life MDI Marathon and Half on Oct. 16. There’s still time to join in on the fun, with registration open until the end of the day on Oct. 3. Special pricing for registrants and volunteers in the real-life races.
Racers get a special Acadia Centennial Medallion, a digital race bib and the chance to see their avatar move on a map of the virtual 26.2 or 13.1-mile route with each day’s mileage entry, whether they run, hike or walk the miles, wherever they are in the world. They may also see a Google Street View® of where they finished for the day.
Virtual runs are a growing fitness trend, with even Disney getting into the act. Acadia on My Mind is proud to be co-sponsor with Crow Athletics and the real-life MDI Marathon of this official Acadia Centennial event.
Participants get to cheer friends – real or virtual – or gently razz competitors via a message board on the race Web site, powered by Racery.com, or via a special Facebook events page we’ve set up. Some have never run a real-life marathon or half, and some have never been to Acadia, while others have done both.
Incaprincess (Suzanne Wiegand) and her husband Duane, of Cuyahoga Falls, OH, are running the virtual MDI Marathon together, and have been to Acadia many times.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be running the actual MDI Marathon this year, but definitely planning on it next year!” said Suzanne, who said in an e-mail that her nickname came from an anthropology class field trip. “The nickname kind of stuck around and it has now translated into my trail running nickname. But you can just call me Inca.”
Virtual runs draw global field, from Ohio to Texas, Australia to New Mexico
A member of Crow Athletics, Suzanne ran a virtual 10k for charity a few years ago, and aims to run a tough 50k trail race next July and her first-ever real-life road marathon next October – “MDI, of course!”
Suzanne, who retired from the local county prosecutor’s office five years ago, said she and her husband hike and run often in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. “We feel really fortunate that we live in an area with such a wonderful national park and outstanding Metro Park system too,” she said. “Our daily morning debate is which trail to visit! LOL! But our hearts are definitely in Acadia.”
Ginger Salinas of Austin, TX, who’s signed up for the virtual MDI Marathon as Ging, fell in love with Acadia when she visited a friend in Bar Harbor this summer, and is coming back Oct. 6 – Oct. 8.
“I was so moved by the beauty of it all,” she said in an e-mail. “I felt so at home, relaxed and like I could truly be present for the first time in a long time. I can’t explain other than to say, ‘Home is where the heart is and my heart is definitely in Down East Maine’.”
Ginger has run 11 real-life marathons, but never in the Northeast. “So this is my first time to run the MDI Marathon – virtual or otherwise. I hope to be back next year for the real marathon.”
Also a member of Crow Athletics, Ginger hopes to find someone to join her on her runs in Bar Harbor or Acadia National Park Oct. 6 – Oct 8 (which includes the start of the 10-day period when the virtual runs are live, Oct. 7 – Oct. 16). “I would love the company and I enjoy meeting new people.”
She also plans to hike the Precipice, perhaps Sargent Mountain, and to check out Bubble Rock. She may also try climbing Otter Cliffs. “Love trying new things! I always push myself to discover more about who I am and how my experiences are shaping me.”
Others signed up for either the virtual MDI Marathon or Half have such screen names as SkiPrincess, Sourceress, Vegasyankees and iluvlobstah, and hail from such places as Australia, Clovis, NM; and Bedford, NH.
Real and virtual runs strengthen communities, personal relationships
TrailWitch (Kristy Sharp) and Christa (Christa Brey) have both run the real-life MDI Marathon or Half in the past, and are volunteering along the real-life race course this year. They’re signed up for the virtual MDI Marathon, and have also participated in another virtual race that we’ve sponsored, the 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek that goes through the end of the year.
Christa, who is president of Eden Athletics, an Ellsworth-based chapter of the Road Runners Club of America, said in an e-mail that she’ll be volunteering at the packet pick-up at the start on Oct. 16, and perhaps somewhere along the real-life race route.
For Christa, running is more than a solo fitness activity. “I really do like to encourage family and friends. It is awesome to see them set a goal and achieve it. It is also a really good way to spend quality time together. Running and hiking seem to bring together a wide variety of people – all ages and backgrounds – [and] an excellent way to make friends and form strong communities.”
Kristy, who is a certified personal trainer at the Harbor House Fitness Center in Southwest Harbor, has run the real-life MDI Marathon and Half Marathon the last couple of years, and will be volunteering this year. She couldn’t resist also signing up for the virtual MDI Marathon, even after having completed the virtual 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek more than three times over so far this year.
“I couldn’t help myself…. I love a challenge so I just registered for the virtual Marathon!” she posted on Facebook, using her screen name of TrailWitch. And her “game plan,” according to her Racery.com message board post: “I think I’m gonna go for all 26.2 as carriage road miles!”
Others who’ve participated in the Acadia Centennial Trek and also signed up for either the virtual MDI Marathon or Half: HikingWithPups (Shelley Dawson) and RangerMo (Acadia park ranger Maureen Fournier).
For those Centennial Trekkers who’ve already earned the Acadia Centennial Medallion, they have the option of a holiday ornament based on the same Centennial design, or an autographed copy of the 3rd edition of our Hiking Acadia National Park guide, when they complete the virtual MDI Marathon or Half.
During this Centennial year, we’ve seen how Acadia or virtual runs can, indeed, help draw together communities, families and friends in pursuit of fitness, as Christa of Eden Athletics so aptly put it.
Running virtually can bring far-flung friends, family members together
Our cousin Howard, who’s going by the screen name of Sanity Clause (from Marx Brothers’ “A Night at the Opera”), will be joining us in the virtual running of the MDI Marathon, while sister Laura, who’s going by the screen name LP, will be running the virtual MDI Half.
Neither of them has been to Acadia yet, or done a real-life marathon or half, although they have done 5ks and other shorter-length races.
“I thought this would be a good way to do a marathon without having to do it in one session,” said Howard, an application developer who lives in West Milford, NJ. (Didn’t know he was a fan of the Marx Brothers, and didn’t know there was a Sanity Clause until this virtual race – thanks Howard!)
Laura, who’s undergone quite a transformation since signing up with Team Beachbody and becoming a Beachbody coach herself, posted on Facebook with her joining the virtual MDI Half:
“I’ve gotten so much physically stronger over the past 10 months and I’m challenging myself to do things I never dreamed I could do. I am absolutely not a runner (the longest race I ever did was a 5K and I was practically hyperventilating after months of “training”) but to celebrate the 100th birthday of Acadia National Park, I have joined a virtual half-marathon from Northeast Harbor to Southwest Harbor.”
So proud of you, Laura! We’re going to be cheering you on, as well as cousin Howard and all the real and virtual friends we’ve met in our real and virtual travels in Acadia, in honor of the Centennial, and in common pursuit of physical fitness.