By Dolores Kong and Dan Ring
Ready, set, and the virtual starting pistol in Acadia National Park has gone off!
More than 200 racers, from Scotland to Hawaii, Maine to Florida, have signed up to run, walk, step-count or hike their way along a custom Racery.com virtual route, beginning atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia and ending at exactly 100 miles, to mark the national park’s centennial.
The virtual Acadia Centennial Trek route winds its way along sections of the Park Loop Road and carriage roads, and up and over the 26 peaks of Mount Desert Island, incorporating parts of real-life area half-marathon and marathon routes, and ending at the real-life finishing line of Mount Desert Island Marathon and Half Marathon.
As bloggers at acadiaonmymind.com and authors of Falcon hiking guides to Acadia, we were looking for a special way to celebrate the park, and thought a free virtual race hosted by Racery.com, with the option to buy a finisher’s medal to help support the park would be just the thing.
The race and the medal are part of our commitment as official Acadia Centennial Partners, to help mark the park’s 100th anniversary. Plus it’s a fun way to stay motivated personally when it comes to fitness, and to keep in touch with family and friends.
Founded first as a national monument in 1916, Acadia is one of the top 10 most visited national parks. More than 2 million visitors a year come to the coastal Maine park to hike its 155 miles of trails, or bicycle or walk its 45 miles of carriage roads.
We created the virtual race route by hand drawing it on Garminconnect.com, and shared the data with Racery.com to come up with the map for Racery.com/r/acadia-centennial-trek. Then we created a virtual guide to the 100 miles on our blog, with links to Google maps at virtual mile markers, so that people can envision where they are within the park, depending upon their ending mileage.
They don’t even have to have ever visited Acadia, to see some of what the park has to offer, by checking out the virtual guide. The optional finisher’s medal is now available for purchase on our blog, and was made in the USA by Ashworth Awards, the same company that has made the medals for the Boston Marathon. At least 5% of gross proceeds go to benefit Acadia, and people don’t even have to have already finished the virtual Trek to order.
We’ve been amazed by the 230 people who have signed up so far, and how much participants have gotten out of it.
Jennifer VanDongen of Bar Harbor, outdoor track coach for Mount Desert Island High School, was behind in training for her 4th Boston Marathon after a bout with pneumonia, and found the Trek to come at the perfect time.
“This Trek was a great motivator!” said VanDongen, whom we quoted in our blog post about the global reach of the Trek. “I completed my daily run, then would go back out and log some miles hiking, sometimes with my daughters.” VanDongen, whose Trek name is @jennvan, crossed the Acadia virtual race finish line first, in just 8 days, logging most of her 100 miles running and hiking in Acadia, and watching her position on an online map of the Trek get updated instantly with each day’s entries.
By having the race run through the end of the year, and publicizing it on social media, our own blog, the official Acadia Centennial page, and a blog through the Bangor Daily News, we hope to get scores more signing up. We’re also planning some in-person gatherings in or near Acadia, so that virtual Trekkers can meet for the first time, and share their love of the park, and passion for the Trek.
And we’re partnering with some real-life races to allow folks to count their miles twice. For example, one of the participants in the Acadia Centennial Trek happened to be helping to organize the Ellsworth Public Library’s My Way 5K to raise money for the building and renovation fund, and reached out to us to help publicize their event. So we blogged about it.
So far, more than 100 people have already finished the inaugural running of the Trek, which began Feb. 26 and runs through Dec. 31. Some finished so fast – they’re marathoners or half marathoners in training – that we asked Racery.com to set up a Part II and a Part III to the Acadia Centennial Trek.
When we came up with the idea for the Acadia Centennial Trek, we weren’t sure how many people would sign up for a 100-mile virtual race, or whether the idea of a finisher’s medal to raise funds for Acadia would take off.
Racery.com showed us the big possibilities and fund-raising potential. Thank you Racery.com, for helping to make the Acadia Centennial Trek such a success!
Dolores Kong and Dan Ring live outside Boston, and have been hiking Acadia National Park’s trails for three editions of their Falcon hiking guides, and for pleasure. Photos by Dolores Kong.