The virtual met reality last week, as more than 1,300 racers from around the world came to run the real-life Mount Desert Island Marathon, Half & Relay, with some of them also logging miles in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run to help benefit charity.
At the same time, the real and virtual races with medals deepened community ties between the Acadia and Katahdin regions, as visitors with Millinocket ties volunteered at the MDI races on Oct. 15, just as MDI residents will be volunteering at the Millinocket Marathon & Half on Dec. 9, and as charities from both regions will benefit from funds raised by the races, real and virtual.
And to cap it all off, real-life and virtual racers and volunteers who might never have met crossed paths last week, whether during the MDI races, at the post-race party at Side Street Café, on the trails of Acadia National Park, or along the byways of Bar Harbor.
“I feel like a celebrity,” said Rebeccah Geib, who won the virtual race and came in 1st in the female age 20-29 division of the MDI Marathon, 1st female MDI resident and 6th female overall, as she was presented with her Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion last week while at work at the Acadia Inn, the day after finishing the real-life MDI race.
Going by the virtual race name of @DreadedRunner, Geib has also been basking in the glow of meeting one of her real-life running heroes, Leah Frost, who won the MDI Marathon (women’s division) for the fourth time last week, and also received an honorary Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion at the post-race party at Side Street.
More than 130 participants have been logging miles from around the world on the virtual 200-mile Cadillac to Katahdin route, to help raise funds for the nonprofit Friends of Acadia, Our Katahdin and Millinocket Memorial Library. Racers can sign up for the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run until Dec. 9, and they can backdate their running, hiking or walking miles anywhere in the world, to Aug. 15. Participants or volunteers in the real-life MDI or Millinocket events get special pricing for the virtual race.
What are virtual races with medals, you ask? They let people from anywhere in the world sign up to run, hike, walk or log other forms of miles, whether to raise funds for charity, earn a finisher’s medallion or just set a fitness goal. Races can include technology-driven virtual routes that allow participants to see their progress, get a Google photo of their virtual location and check out the competition online, such as in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run. Or it can be as simple as allowing people to record their mileage via the honor system in order to get a medal in the mail. There are different themes for virtual races with medals, and even Disney runs them. Check out what a Cadillac to Katahdin virtual racer experience can be like in this short video by racery.com, which hosts the race on its online platform.
Co-sponsored by Acadia on My Mind and organizers of the real-life MDI Marathon & Half and Millinocket Marathon & Half, the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run is also the virtual edition of the first-ever Sea to Summit Series, where runners who participate in both the real-life MDI and Millinocket races can earn a special Sea to Summit finisher’s medallion.
Gary Allen, director of the real-life MDI and Millinocket races, and Sea to Summit Series, likens the impact of the races he’s launched as “a pebble tossed into still water,” with ever-widening rings of positive influence and inspiration. The rings have spread so far and wide, especially with his starting the free Millinocket Marathon & Half in December 2015 to provide an economic boost to the old mill town, that Allen has been profiled in Runner’s World, Down East Magazine and elsewhere. He recently received Bangor television station WLBZ’s 2 Those Who Care Award, for the boost his races have given to communities like Millinocket.
Recipients of virtual race medal include Maine Running Hall of Famer
Among participants in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run who’ve received their medals already:
- Maine Running Hall of Famer Robin Emery, who goes by the virtual race name of @Fossil. She came in first in her age group (female age 70 to 79) for the virtual race, and 2nd in her age group for the MDI Half Marathon. She received her Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion on Oct. 21 during a ceremony on Jesup Path, in front of her second-favorite view in all of Acadia, of Dorr, ablaze with fall foliage.
- Patricia McNally, who goes by the virtual race name of @Pattie and has ties to Millinocket. She volunteered at the MDI races with her friend Tricia Cyr, who co-owns Moose Drop In gift shop in Millinocket, and picked up her medal at Side Street. She says she won’t wear it until she’s completed her virtual 200 miles, which she’s been logging all over during her travels since Aug. 15, from Italy to Maine.
- Melissa Relyea Ossanna, who goes by the virtual race name of @RosaPup and ran the MDI Marathon, coming in as 2nd female MDI resident behind @DreadedRunner and 3rd in her division (female age 45-49). During a virtual race medal ceremony at Side Street, Gary Allen put the Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion around her neck, and gave her a peck on each cheek, like the French do.
- Maureen Fournier, who goes by the virtual race name of @RangerMo, and received her medal on Oct. 19 before logging a half mile together with friends in the woods of Cadillac. She says she’ll wait until she completes her 200 miles before wearing the medal, and particularly likes the idea of the virtual race helping to support the Friends of Acadia, as she’s a seasonal ranger at Acadia, and Millinocket Memorial Library, as she was a former librarian.
Overall, more than 40 participants have completed the 200 miles from Cadillac to Katahdin, and many of them are onto their second lap of the virtual race. Finishers will be receiving their medals in the US mail beginning this week. The medal, made by Ashworth Awards, the same company that makes the MDI and Boston Marathon medallions, is shaped like the state of Maine and features a raised lobster claw and pine tree.
Among other virtual runners in the real-life MDI races who got virtual and real-life credit for the same miles, and who will also be getting their Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion via US mail:
- @Shellperry, who perfectly timed the MDI Half with the completion of the virtual race
- @Honeybee, a.k.a. Holly Todd, a beekeeper, massage therapist and Maine Guide from Millinocket who completed the MDI Half and logged her miles on the virtual course with this exclamation: “Woo Hoo.” She’s also signed up for the Millinocket Marathon.
- @SouleMarks, a member of Crow Athletics who completed the MDI Marathon and logged her 26.2 miles with this comment: “CAW!!!”
- @griffinsm15, who ran the MDI Half
- @KDDID, who ran the MDI Marathon as part of a 2-person team, and logged her 13.1 miles with this comment: “Great race & a PR [personal record] for me!”
- @JillMarie63, who ran the MDI Half and commented on the virtual race messageboard, “So much fun!”
- @BigRed68, who ran the MDI Marathon and commented, “How many can say they ran the MDI Marathon and the Millinocket Half (virtually) at the same time.”
- @Nikkibunns, who ran the MDI Marathon and commented, “Marathon complete!! Feels great, but man my body is screaming at me! Did it in 5 hours 27 mins!”
- @NorahP, who ran the MDI Half and has put up a real-life race photo for her virtual race avatar
- @drcat, who ran the MDI Half and is in training for the Millinocket Marathon
- @OnYourLeft2, who ran the MDI Half
- @sndgls, who ran the MDI Half and commented, “got a PR and met other virtual runners (I’m looking at you @OnYourLeft2) & Millinocket Marathon folks [who were all as lovely btw]. Just need to finish the second half of #SeaToSummit. Next stop, Millinocket…” He even posted a photo of himself with the MDI Half medal on the virtual race messageboard.
- @JuliaG, who ran the MDI Half in drizzly weather, and posted these comments: “Not a great race for me, but a great day nonetheless!”
- @Bruczilla, who ran the MDI Half and posted a photo of race director Gary Allen as he dashed by at the finish line.
- @Keefa, a.k.a. Bryan O’Keefe, who ran the MDI Marathon and is the most consistent cheerleader for fellow virtual racers, had this to say about the real-life race: “The hills were fun!”
- @Dear, who ran the MDI Marathon with her husband, his first 26.2 miler, and commented, “Great day for a run.”
- @erik04444, who ran the MDI Marathon in Boston-qualifying time, placing 7th overall and 1st in his division, male age 40-44.
With so many MDI racers also in the virtual run, the motto for the real-life race – “Get Real Maine. Run MDI!”- could almost also be “Get Virtual Maine. Run MDI!”
As finishers in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run receive their medals, they’ll be getting instructions on how to forward a photo of themselves with the medal on if they want to be included in a future blog or social media post about the race.
And as another way for the virtual to become real, they’ll also receive a postcard they could pin on to self-identify as a Cadillac to Katahdin virtual racer at the next real-life race they’re running in or volunteering at, whether it’s at the Moose Pond Half Marathon and 5K in Bridgton on Nov. 4 (where @shepjr and @KPS will meet for the first time in real life), or the Millinocket Marathon & Half on Dec. 9.
(If you’re not close to finishing the virtual race yet and still want the postcard to pin, print out the photo of the postcard, and write your virtual race name at the bottom, next to the @ symbol.)
Then virtual racers who only know each other by their online avatars and race names can meet each other in real life, and deepen even more that sense of community that’s been developing over the course of the 200-mile Cadillac to Katahdin route, and during the running of the MDI Marathon, Half & Relay.
Virtual races with medals a topic of discussion on Jordan Cliffs Trail
But perhaps our favorite example of the virtual meeting reality, and of the community that develops from races real and virtual, comes from an accidental meeting on Friday on the Jordan Cliffs Trail, as @AOMM was logging hiking miles for the virtual race, to tag onto the 13.1 real-life MDI miles she’d run earlier in the week.
In 15 out of the 16 years that the MDI race has been held, anyone who’s ever run the marathon or half would have seen or heard Dick Atlee playing the accordion at the Acadia Mountain trailhead, with Sarah Corson accompanying him.
This year, as the rain started on marathon Sunday, @AOMM was the only racer not to hear the music, as Atlee was putting on a rain poncho to protect the accordion just as she was passing the Acadia Mountain trailhead.
“Did you bring your accordion?” @AOMM asked as they struck up a conversation about MDI, spurred by the race shirt she was wearing. As they stood along the cliffs trail overlooking Jordan Pond, @AOMM explained she was logging miles for a virtual race and missed not hearing his music during the MDI event. “What’s a virtual race?” Atlee asked.
And so began a discussion of real and virtual races with medals to benefit charity, sharing of hiking tips, connecting over mutual acquaintances, and a promise to document in this blog some of the water stops and other facets of the MDI race that Atlee and Corson have never had a chance to see in all the years they’ve been at their Acadia Mountain station, making music together.
For the accordionist and his accompanist, may the below photos and video from this year’s MDI Marathon, Half & Relay, and those on the race’s Facebook page, help bridge that gap between virtual and reality. Thanks for the music, that’s so much part of the real-life race community.