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Deb Neuman Deb Neuman
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and they're off!

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and they're off! edge photo by Tim Bissell

The start of the Mount Desert Marathon this past Sunday in Bar Harbor was impressive as hundreds of runners stood in the misty rain, early in the morning ready to take on the challenging miles that stood between them and the finish line. I arrived the night before to stay at the Hearthside Inn. My plan had been to run the marathon but I opted out due to not feeling 100-percent. So, rather than run, I spent the evening before and the day of the marathon appreciating and rooting for the runners and the organizers who made the event possible.

Gary Allen began the marathon 10 years ago and it's grown every year. People often talk about the economic impact that events like this bring to a community. I witnessed this first hand.

It began when I checked into the Inn and met a couple who came to Maine from Massachusetts to run the marathon. As I walked around town I saw many families wearing marathon shirts and jackets who were stopping into stores for souvenirs. When I stopped into the North Face store I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who came in to buy weather-proof gear to run the marathon. Later, I was sitting at the bar at McKays enjoying a malty beverage when a young couple sat next to me. They were in town from New Jersey to run the marathon. It was their first trip to Maine.

The morning of the marathon I went to the starting line to cheer on the runners and was surrounded by family and friends of the runners who, once the race started, headed off for breakfast, coffee and shopping. I returned to the Inn for breakfast and sat with a couple visiting from St. Louis who, like me, had opted out of running and instead planned to spend the day exploring Acadia, eating out and shopping.

The MDI marathon brought in runners and their families from all over the country and beyond who rented hotel rooms, went out to eat and shopped. Many I met were in Maine for the first time and planned to return. They had heard great things about the marathon and were attracted to it because it has such a positive reputation and because it's run along our beautiful coast.

This marathon is so much more than a running event. This is a business attraction event. People came, stayed, spent money and plan to return. Some may return for an extended vacation. Some may return to live and start businesses. Some may return home and talk about what a great experience they had in Maine and that might entice others to come. People making economic development happen at the local level is what it's all about. Major kudos to Gary Allen and his team of organizers, volunteers and the community of Bar Harbor for making this happen. It took one guy with a crazy idea to start an event that is making a positive difference for Mount Desert Island and the entire state of Maine. As I waved off the last runner and started heading back to the Inn I overheard a Bar Harbor policeman talking with a bystander and saying, 'This event gets bigger and bigger every year and it's so good for this town.'

The moral of this story is that one person can make a huge impact one step at a time.


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