Nick Brown of Team Pizza and Beer crosses the finish line of the Fourth of July Around MDI Relay in Bar Harbor. Brown and teammate Andrew Kephart, both Ellsworth natives, finished second with a time of 7 hours, 58 minutes, 56 seconds. CROW ATHLETICS PHOTO

Runners brave heat for Fourth of July Around MDI Relay



BAR HARBOR — Temperatures nearing 90 degrees on Mount Desert Island didn’t stop one of the area’s biggest races from taking center stage this Independence Day.

Seven teams came to Hulls Cove on Wednesday for this year’s edition of the Fourth of July Around MDI Relay. It was the 16th running of the holiday event, which took runners across the island in the roasting heat.

“Runners are runners,” said Gary Allen of Crow Athletics. “It’s kind of crazy, but they show up no matter what and run no matter what. There were points on that trail where the heat felt like it was 100 degrees, but everyone kept going.”

The race started and finished at Mainely Meats in Hulls Cove. The route followed the one covered by the MDI Marathon with added stops in Tremont and Pretty Marsh on the west side of the island as well as some along the north side.

Crow Athletics members set up signs with American flags all across the 61.97-mile route to mark each of the exchange zones. Distances throughout the route varied with stretches averaging 8.5-9 miles between the second and fourth legs to a more manageable 4.12 miles on the ninth and final leg.

“I don’t really drive anywhere without seeing a potential race course somewhere,” Allen said. “It was a fun one to plan, and the runners have always seemed to really enjoy it. It makes for a good holiday.”

Bar Harbor’s Rebeccah Geib runs during the Fourth of July Around MDI Relay. Geib ran the first four legs of the race for the Gnarwhals. CROW ATHLETICS PHOTO

Although this year’s race had water available in the exchange zones, teams made their own plans to ensure proper hydration throughout the race. Ellsworth’s Andrew Kephart and Nick Brown, who competed as Team Pizza and Beer, had a truck with an ice-filled, cooler and cold towels drive alongside whichever member of their team was running.

“It wasn’t easy with the heat, but it’s always a good run around the island,” Kephart said. “We took extra precautions to make sure we were even more prepared than usual.”

Wes Danforth, Dan Ferguson, Dave Lin and Robby Morache of Team TBD finished first place in the overall competition with a winning time of 7 hours, 48 minutes, 35 seconds. Team Pizza and Beer took home second place with a time of 7:58:56.

Kephart also had the most leg wins of any individual runner with three. He won the fourth, sixth and eighth legs of the race with times of 58:11, 36:06 and 36:56, respectively.

“My personal pace was 6 minutes, 27 seconds [per mile], which was faster than expected,” Kephart said. “For us to do that well with just the two of us is something to be happy with.”

Jarly Bobadilla, Candace Daley, Dylan Garceau, Eli Hartig, Rudy Kelley, Brandon O’Keefe and Andrew Simon earned third place for Barn Arts Running Club. The team had an overall time of 8:06:45 and an average pace of 7:48.

Northeast Runners, Hounds without a Hare and The Lab Rats placed fourth through sixth, respectively. The Gnarwhals did not compete in the race’s final two legs, though the two-member team of Dylan Brann and Rebeccah Geib of Bar Harbor put together some solid times over the first seven.

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]