This is Millinocket

Sometimes, amidst anxiety over Omicron, climate change and things we can’t fix. Sometimes, amidst the everyday worries and dis-ease that is life it’s good to have it all come down to, “Which shirt should I wear?”

It’s 7:30 Saturday morning and we’re driving north from Bangor to Millinocket, the gateway to Baxter State Park, home of Mount Katahdin and host of the Millinocket Marathon.  

It’s cold – 10, 12, now 14 degrees…Nope, back to 12. But its sunny we remind ourselves – no wind, not like we had last night.

We park at the high school and the trickiest part of the day to navigate ourselves slowly, carefully across the icy parking lot to register for the race…..The road will be plowed we think. Of course, the roads will be plowed and not like this…

There’s no registration fee for the Millinocket Marathon – no water, food, tee shirts or medals either – just the opportunity to come up here to the end of the road to support the town and help the locals make it through another long winter. So instead of an entry fee, there’s a craft fair here in the school gym. Perfect for someone who does not like shopping to have to hang out for a bit before our race starts and get all my Christmas shopping done. 

Back to the car and a question about which gloves we’ll need. We slip and slide down the roads to town and a big log truck marking the starting line of the race.  The marathon starts with a bang of a gunshot, we all jump, and look for the port-a-potty. Too long of a line. We’ll wait. Alright, I like the choice of clothing – glad for the warmer shirt and two layers of pants.  So glad for these warm mittens that I found at the craft fair.

Another shot and we’re off for the half-marathon. As the road turns out of town, we head up a logging road covered with ice and sand. Our steps small and steady so not to slip. We continue to go up, up and more up. How much up can there be? 

We pass promises of shots of Fireball and hot Gatorade, men running with chain saws strapped to their backs, raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The saws weigh 25 pounds but it’s the pants Paul tells me that are the hardest part – tough heavy pants to prevent the chain saw from cutting through your leg. We continue up past elves and Santa, past a man dressed in animal skins. Up, up and more small steady steps, up.  

As we climb, snow covered Katahdin sparkling over the hill in the distance as encouragement as we continue up, up and more up sand covered icy roads.  

Finally at the crest of the hill we see down at last. Last year, when the race was cancelled, we ran our own virtual Millinocket Half-Marathon through the dark roads of Boothbay Harbor one evening. In honor of the race known for the bars the locals set up along the route, we paused at mile 11 for a shot of cinnamon whisky Fireball. This year at mile 11 I did not feel like I was going to fall over and need my friends to guide me to the finish. I did slow down but I’m not sure if that was the Fireball or 11 miles… 

Down, down, down and at last a turn back through town and by the log truck and the finish.  

There’s something about finishing a challenge and the joy in it after the times along the way you wondered if you ever would. As I stumble back to the car on sore legs across yet more icy roads, so happy, so full of joy, that amidst everything in a world that seems so impossible to change and so many obstacles to overcome, amidst cold to bear and treacherous roads to navigate, the joy that in this little moment, this tiny point in time, the joy that today, we did.

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