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.