I started running a year ago at the Newburyport Half Marathon. Near the anniversary of that run, I found my way to the starting line in Kennebunk, ME @ the Shipyard Maine Coastal Marathon. This was my first marathon and I was joined by roughly 800 of my best friends (or just fellow runners)! It was cold (around 45 degrees) & the sun was popping in and out. As we lined up to run the temps started to rise and the sun peeked out not to disappear again!
So let’s focus on the positives of this race
1. Scenery: It was simply amazing running along the coast and through the towns. Kennebunk was a treat especially. Overall, there was plenty of “distraction” along the route to help in getting me to the finish line.
2. Challenging: For a first time marathoner such as this writer, the up and down of the route took its toll on my legs. My biggest fault I had training wise was the relatively flat terrain I ran day in and day out leading up to this race. Next time I need to add more hills to the said training. According to my SmashRun data, there was 732ft of climbing on the route and 756ft on the downside.
3. Organization: This race was organized extremely well and had many wonderful volunteers along those route! From the bus ride from the finish line to the starting line to the bib pickup, it was organized very well.The police in each town kept the traffic at bay and much of the route was run along roads that were not that busy to start with.
4. Great Fans! This route did not have bands playing and on many turns did not have a single supporter but it was great where the people were. They were all very nice and had supportive words for the runners. Typical good spirited Maine people!
5. Support and aid stations: Every two miles there was water and Gatorade which was extremely helpful to this first time runner. I did not partake in the food though I think in hindsight, I might have taken in the jelly beans versus the gu shots I used – compared to previous races, the gu just did not have the same effect…
As for the negatives of the Maine Coastal Marathon
1. The Goods: There was not much for this race in terms of “goods.” Yes, one gets a great medal for finishing but at all the other races, there were other “swag” and this race basically had none. Perhaps I missed something…I am unsure. Also went looking for garb like a jacket or something and what they had was not that great. The post race food spread was good but honestly, I could not eat after that run!
2. Race Tracking: The race organizers used the Racejoy folks to track the runners. The new feature for me was the live tracking but one needed to have their phone on them to be tracked (which I don’t run with). I have a Garmin watch but that too needed to be tethered to my phone to be tracked as well so what was left for my family was to follow me through the racejoy app on a delayed basis and was it delayed! My wife could not find me using the app as It was reporting my distance almost 7 miles behind! It was pretty much a disaster in that regard. Thankfully we met up at the preset location that we spoke of beforehand which prevented any more aggravation!
Now let’s talk about the Race itself!
Beginning just ho hum but the rest is great! (except for Route 9)
The race for the most part was rolling hills and intense scenery. Upon reviewing the preface video of the course (click here for that video) the first four miles were a blur to me. Perhaps the excitement of running my first marathon kept me from actually focusing on my surroundings! Honestly though for the first few miles, there is not much to look at compared to what follows along the coast. At the same time, there were plenty of great people cheering us along the beginning! My focus primarily was on my pace as I figured if I maintained a 9 minute pace, then I would be fine later (wishful thinking). So by mile four, as we entered Kennebunk, nothing really stood out other than the slight up and down of the road (which added to my overall incline and decline stats at the end of the day).
Around mile 6 is when the scenery and views arrive with a bang! It is tremendous as you come around a bend and all of a sudden, there is the ocean! There is actually a turn at Kennebunk beach that looks awfully similar to another point later in the race up near Biddeford Poole – in fact, I thought I was losing my mind when I came to the latter thinking I was bonking or something..”haven’t I seen this before?” Thankfully that was not the case! In any event, once you get through much of mile 7, you start heading back inland towards Kennebunk’s center.
This was a particular spot that I like running through. Lots of people and excitement it seemed. I also saw my own family driving by here as they were heading for the aforementioned spot listed above. The one drawback here is that you are basically running on the sidewalk because of the traffic. Nobody gets in the way but it is a tight squeeze so obviously not a good place to pass anyone! It is a great town though and you can see all the little shops bustling with people and spectators.
Once you leave the center, you then run along the “bay” of sorts. At mile 10 is when you come back to the massive scenery of this race. This is where the “rolling” hills return to the forefront as there is more climbing than falling at this point. With the views around you though, it is not very apparent. You will pass by the Bush compound around mile 11 and then head back inland. Again, small ups and downs and not much to see around this point except trees and houses.
Once passing mile 14, you get on route 9 which was my nemesis on this race! There are stretches where there is nothing to see here. The first part of 9 was not bad though around mile 15, that is when the legs started to feel the pain of having run, well 15 miles! The next 3 miles remain on route 9 and it gets a bit old at this point. I was also starting to feel the burn if you will (and not the Bernie Sanders type). At mile 18, you get off of 9 thankfully and head back toward the ocean. The race spends the next few miles heading towards and then away from the ocean, back unfortunately towards route 9. That is where my legs started to really hurt, around mile 20.
Miles 20 through 22 are brutal because there is nothing to look at except for an old road and sand along the side. The cars are flying by and attempting to pass on the outside is not recommended. Passing on the inside leads to one having to trudge through the sand of the side of the road. It was just a killer to me at this point and this is when my music was not even helping. It was tough! However, at mile 22, you head off rt 9 and head towards the last four miles which is very scenic – that did not matter much to me though as I was really hurting.
My de ja vu moment occurred right at mile 23 when all of a sudden I thought I was back in Kennebunk! The views to the beach here though were just astounding and fantastic! (on a side note, I was told by my wife that this is part of Old Orchard Beach btw). The rest of the way once leaving the beach is rolling hills on the way to University of New England. The run through the campus is pretty nice under a bridge and one finishes up running along the track.
So overall from a rating perspective, I would rate this highly! At the same time, I have never run a marathon before so I don’t have anything to compare it to. I will say that the 10k I ran last year in Rye was pretty good on the scenery side but this was better. The winds were tough at times but can you expect otherwise when running along the coast?
So that’s about all I have for this race.
Thank you for reading and hopefully this is helpful