CAMDEN – A week after registration opened for the second Annual Megunticook 50 ultra trail-running event at Camden Hills, 25% of the slots were filled. That was at the beginning of March 2021. By the beginning of June, both race registrations had reached 50% capacity for the Saturday, Sept. 11, event.
Up until last year’s inaugural event, which included a 31-mile trail run through the Camden Hills and a shorter 6-mile race, no organized running races had ever taken place in the State park. Yet, ultra runner David Hirschfeld and Park officials wagered on the terrain, the scenic outlooks, and the promotion of a “brutal, beautiful” course.
Was the Midcoast ready for this new niche market? Would it compare with other ultra events on the list of serious contenders?
The top five ultra finishers of last year’s race spoke to Hirschfeld beyond the finish line.
“Each of them said, ‘I’m doing this again. This was brutal,’” he said.
The course was good enough, tough enough, that Ultra Running Magazine – the go-to for most ultra athletes – published a November article following Camden’s September 2020 inaugural race, paving the way for national interest.
“I’ve run a lot of ultras in some amazing places, but this is one of the best,” said Hirschfeld. “We’ve got the terrain. We’ve got the community that supports it. And an incredible park, the coast, and the views. It’s just something you don’t see in other places.”
New this year:
–Though the maximum number of participants remains the same, the proportions have changed. Since the draw is the 31-miler, 150 slots were made available for the 50k when registration opened March 1, 2021. The 10k (6-miles) has reduced to 50 slots – though the race still contains some of the “brutal” aspects as the longer run.
–This year’s start will be a mass start (provided that the Park’s COVID restrictions allow the procedure). All 200 runners will begin at the same time. Because of COVID last year, those runners started separately and staggered, which required a Camden police officer to maintain traffic control for approximately 1.5 hours on Route 1 as the runners ran from the upper side of the road, across Route 1, down to the ocean, then back across Route 1 again.
–A festival atmosphere for the finish area is being considered for this and future Megunticook 50s. Hirschfeld hopes to draw vendors, exhibits, and music. No alcohol is allowed on Park grounds.
–Sponsors are permitted this year. This year, One Community Many Voices is collaborating. In the future, OCMV may take over as primary sponsor, according to Hirschfeld.
“This [event] is something that I wanted to start, get going, and then let it take on a life of its own,” he said.
–Charitable beneficiaries: Coastal Mountain Search and Rescue – which is heavily involved from the tactical angle and will be on hand to seek potentially lost runners and those who fail to check in by race’s end – and Camden Hills State Park are both beneficiaries of this first year of charitable proceeds.
–Volunteers: More volunteers are needed, especially at some of the critical junctions that confused runners during last year’s race.
More information can be found at https://megunticook50.com/
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