Half marathon, relay back for County Open weekend

15 years ago

Island Falls new location for run/walk

By Gloria Austin
Staff Writer

    After a year’s hiatus, The County Open Half Marathon and The County Open Relay are back.
    This year’s race sponsor is First Choice Real Estate, with two offices in Houlton and one in Island Falls.  The half-marathon and open relay will be at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8 in a new Island Falls location. In previous years, the race was held in New Limerick.
    Pre-registration is $25 by July 15 and $30 afterward. For the Open Relay, entry is $60 per team. The relay can be either 2 or 4 person teams. 
    “The relay is a terrific opportunity for runners who are not up to 13.1 miles to participant in this really big and fun event,” said Race Director John Walker.
    Runners begin the race in downtown Island Falls and run toward Houlton on Route 2 and back to the start-finish line for the first quarter and then on quiet roads – some dirt – to complete the 13.1-mile loop course. 
    Walker said, “Having the first-quarter mark at the start-finish line greatly increases the excitement of the spectators and the adrenalin of the runners.”
    The 13.1-mile USA TAC certified County Open Half Marathon course is a one-of-a-kind race for runners who vacation in or live in Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.
ImageRELAY – Brent Bailey runs his leg of the County Open Relay during the 2007 event. Bailey is a well-known local runner, who will probably be back in the race again this year.
    The race has been included in the Aroostook Musterds summer circuit promising a competitive race between runners from around the nation, state of Maine, and eastern Canada.
    The race course is mostly flat with some rolling hills winding through rural roads taking runners along side and over Dyer Brook, the Mattawamkeag River and Fish Stream, several times. The course goes by potato fields, a couple of cemeteries, and several farms. There is a large viewing area by the start/finish line, and since the first baton pass is at the start/finish line (for relay racers), it offers enhanced excitement for spectators, said Walker.
     According to Walker, the views along the course are terrific.
    “Deer are often seen by runners as they progress over the rolling hills (mostly flat) course,” he said. “With little or no automobile traffic, the race is a favorite of runners who prefer a peaceful, natural setting.”
    Runners are competing for a purse of $1,000 broken down as follows:  first-place male and female, $200; second-place finisher male and female, $150; third, male and female, $100 and first-place male and female Masters, $50.
    Other prizes will also be awarded to the top finishers in various age divisions.
    For those not quite feeling up to the full 13.1 miles, The County Open Half Marathon/Relay allows runners to form relay teams of either two or four runners to compete. Each runner will run at least 3.1 miles. Awards will be presented to the top finishers in the all male, all female, and mixed categories. The race is run on the same course and at the same time as The County Open Half Marathon.
    County Open baseball caps will be given to the first 100 runners to register. Aid stations with water and sports drinks will be available at every relay location. There will be random door prize drawings, too.
    Runners can pick up a registration packet from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 7 at Tim Hortons on the North Road in Houlton or they can register on race day, Saturday, Aug. 8. For more information or to pre-register, call Race Director John Walker at 207-415-1688 or e-mail jswalkerinc@gmail.com.
     The 20th annual County Open weekend is a yearly event encompassing a two-day golf tournament (Friday/Saturday), a Friday golf scramble, and a half-marathon/relay and gala dinner on Saturday evening.  Monies raised from this event benefit the Health Service Foundation, which promotes excellence in health care in southern Aroostook. To date, more than $400,000 has been raised from the County Open events.