Sidelined by pneumonia for a few weeks, Jennifer VanDongen of Bar Harbor was behind in training for her 4th Boston Marathon. Then came the first-ever 100-mile virtual Acadia Centennial Trek, launched last month to celebrate the park’s 100th anniversary.
“This Trek was a great motivator!” said VanDongen, outdoor track coach for Mount Desert Island High School. “I completed my daily run, then would go back out and log some miles hiking, sometimes with my daughters.” VanDongen, whose Trek name is @jennvan, crossed the Acadia virtual race finish line first, in just 8 days, logging most of her 100 miles running and hiking in Acadia, and watching her position on an online map of the Trek get updated instantly with each day’s entries.
Across the country, on the other side of the Atlantic, and from one end of Maine to the other, 153 participants have signed up so far for the free year-long Acadia virtual race. They’re logging miles by hiking, step-counting, running, biking, cross-country skiing, walking their dog, doing yoga or other workouts, whether they’re on Mount Desert Island, in Fairfield or Mars Hill, Maine, or in far-flung locations in California, Oregon, Hawaii, the United Kingdom or Denmark.
Sponsored by Acadia on My Mind as part of its Acadia Centennial Partner commitment, and hosted on Racery.com, the race helps celebrate the park’s 100th throughout the year. The virtual 100-mile route begins on Cadillac, goes over the park’s 26 peaks on MDI and along sections of the Park Loop Road, carriage roads, MDI YMCA’s Acadia and Fall Half Marathons, and ends at the real-life finish line of the MDI Marathon and Half Marathon.
There’s an optional finisher’s medal featuring the Acadia Centennial logo that will be available for purchase, to help raise funds for the park. And there’s an online guide to the virtual miles, with links to Google Maps photos and other resources that can let participants visualize where they are in the park as they pass each milestone in the Acadia virtual race.
Some Trek participants have joined as a way to achieve their fitness goals, whether it’s training for marathons or starting a walking program. Others are inviting family, friends and co-workers as a new way to interact. Yet others are doing it to keep Acadia on their mind, wherever they may be, and whether they’ve ever set foot in the park or not.
“I make several trips to Acadia every summer to hike and bike some of the best trails I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy,” said Marc Maheu, a teacher at Lawrence Junior High in Fairfield, Maine, who finished the virtual 100-mile Acadia route in 2nd place, just 1 day behind @jennvan. “Since I’m almost 2 hours away, and school is still in session, I did all my miles virtually,” said Maheu, who logged his miles step-counting, biking and doing other workouts. Maheu, whose Trek name is @MNM, even invited a co-worker to join the Trek with him, and has continued to log his miles virtually on a personal “My Trek” on Racery.com, and is already up to 191 miles.
Acadia virtual race participants hail from MDI, across the world
There have even been a few examples of local participants in the virtual race crossing paths on real-life Acadia hiking trails – @MG, @TrailWitch and @linnane – but not realizing it until the end of the day when they’re logging their miles and making comments on the online race map. Perhaps there will be a real-life meeting of Acadia Centennial Trekkers, somewhere in the near future. A couple of them have already posted photos of their separate hikes on Instagram, using the hashtag #myacadiacentennialtrek, and may put one up of any chance meeting they may have.
So far, 14 Trekkers have completed the virtual route. Coming in behind @jennvan and @MNM:
3rd place – @ChrisG
4th place – @lunchlady
5th place – @HikingSuzie
6th place – @Mac, who’s training for the London Marathon in April and 2 other real-life 26.2 milers this year, and doing most of her running in the countryside of Kelso in the Scottish Borders. “Thoroughly enjoyed this virtual Trek. Someday I would like to see Acadia in all its glory,” she wrote on the Trek’s message board soon after she completed the virtual race.
7th place – @Antrim, who’s aiming to run 15 marathons and complete 50-mile multi-terrain ultramarathons this year, and actually crossed the Acadia virtual race finish line when he completed a real-life marathon in the United Kingdom
8th place – @Vonnie1, who had knee surgery last month and found the Trek came at just the right time to help her get back on track with her fitness program, including walking, yoga ball exercises and calisthenics, as measured by her Garmin activity tracker. She usually hikes the trails of Acadia with a buddy, @MissToddyPond, and wants to do the Acadia virtual race again.
9th place – @Kimmmo, who crossed the virtual finish line with a 21.2-mile training run for the real-life Boston Marathon next month
10th place – @Christa, who was the first to sign up for the Acadia Centennial Trek and is training for the Sugarloaf Marathon
11th place – @LauraA, who witnessed Canada geese returning to MDI on one of her runs, and “an argument between a crow and a flock of seagulls by Northeast Creek” as she crossed the virtual finish line
12th place – @MimiB, who included a 20-mile race in Massachusetts in her virtual mileage log
13th place – @andrewhanna1977, who ran the Carlingford Half Marathon and East Antrim Knockathon Marathon in Ireland as part of his virtual mileage
14th place – @Trecker29
Collectively, since the launch of the Trek on Feb. 29, the 153 registrants have logged more than 5,000 miles. It’s not too late to join this inaugural Acadia virtual race. You have until Dec. 31 to complete the 100-mile route.
Once is not enough for Acadia virtual race, or real-life Acadia trips
So many have asked to do the Acadia Centennial Trek again – even those who are far from completing the first 100 miles, such as @Stick, who hikes Acadia and Baxter State Park in the summer, and hikes, bikes and walks the flatlands of Florida in winter – that we’ve gotten special dispensation from Racery.com to run the race a second time, and maybe a third.
For all those who have already finished the first running of Acadia Centennial Trek, and for those who want a truly long-distance goal to aim for, we hereby announce the opening of Acadia Centennial Trek Part II. Sign up here (but log your miles only after you’ve completed the first 100 miles, to avoid confusing Racery.com’s data tracking).
Perhaps Part II can also be called the Acadia Bi-Centennial Trek. And if we launch Part III, it can be known as the Acadia Tri-Centennial Trek. That means finishers of the first 2 in the series can be called virtual Acadia Bi-Athletes, and all 3 in the series, virtual Acadia Tri-Athletes!
The Acadia virtual race is so invigorating and addictive, once is not enough, just as it isn’t for real-life Acadia walks, hikes or runs.
Even for Jennifer VanDongen of Bar Harbor, the trails practically in her backyard beckon again and again, whether she’s in training for the Boston Marathon, the Great Run on Great Cranberry Island or any of the other Crow Athletics-sponsored races, or just enjoying the park with her family.
“To celebrate the Centennial, my family and I plan to continue getting outside and enjoying Acadia,” she said. “We do a lot of hiking over the summer and participate in the Acadia Quest,” the Friends of Acadia-sponsored May-November event to encourage famiies and youth to explore the park.
Whether you’re doing the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek 1 mile or 26.2 miles at a time, or hiking, biking or walking the real-life trails and carriage roads of Acadia National Park for the 1st or 101st time, may Acadia always beckon to you.
CAUTION: Don’t necessarily follow the virtual route on any of your real-life exploration of Acadia. The route was drawn for the convenience of coming up with exactly 100 miles, covering all 26 peaks of Acadia on Mount Desert Island, some of the Park Loop Road, carriage roads and the routes of Acadia and Fall Half Marathons, and ending at the MDI Marathon finish line. It could be that some of the virtual route doesn’t follow any official trail, or goes up the hardest way, rather than the recommended way, up a particular mountain, or along less-than-scenic campground roads. We’d recommend getting a good topo map and hiking guide, before setting out on the trails. We’re fond of our own guides, of course (see sidebar), but you can search Amazon.com for other books or maps, or try a free app like Chimani. The sponsors of this race assume no liability for accidents happening to, or injuries sustained by, participants in the Trek. The sponsors also do not make any representations as to the conditions of the virtual routes as they apply to the actual routes at Acadia. If you are hiking, running or biking in Acadia National Park as part of the Trek, be sure to follow the rules for park passes, safety, and trail and road usage, available at nps.gov/acad.