MAPLETON, Maine — On Saturday, Sept. 12, Competitor ME will host its second annual Memorial Challenge races in honor of the late Dustin Libby, a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Libby grew up in Mapleton and was 22 years old when he was killed while serving in Iraq on Dec. 6, 2006. His parents, Geni and Judson Libby, came to know Competitor ME founder Jonathan Kelley through their participation in various Competitor ME events that honor veterans and their sacrifices.
Kelley organized the first Corporal Dustin Libby Memorial Challenge in 2019 and helped raise more than $1,000 through community sponsors and event registration.
“I did not know Dustin, but when I saw a plaque in his honor at the bottom of Haystack Mountain [in Mapleton] and a bench in his name at the top of the mountain, I knew we had to find a way to always remember him and honor his sacrifices,” Kelley said.
The Memorial Challenge will begin at 8 a.m. at Mapleton Elementary School with a one-mile Fun Run for kids. A 5K run/walk will start at 9 a.m. All proceeds will be given to the Mapleton Recreation Department, an organization that Libby volunteered for.
This year’s event is organized relatively differently due to guidelines that Competitor ME has put in place to prevent COVID-19 spread. Instead of registering on the day of the event, participants must go to the Competitor ME website to fill out the necessary forms. The deadline for registering is Wednesday, Sept. 9.
People who register will have the option to participate virtually or in person. Kelley noted that out of the 25 people who have registered so far, 15 will take part in the races in person and 10 have opted for virtual participation to avoid traveling to Aroostook County.
Anyone who joins the races virtually must submit photos to the Competitor ME Facebook page and can also share videos and stories of their personal reasons for participating.
“It serves as a photo album for the family to see how all these people in Aroostook and across the U.S. are remembering Dustin,” Kelley said.
Competitor ME officials will encourage any spectators at the in-person 5K to either watch from their vehicles or stand outside while socially distancing themselves from people not in their party. They hope to keep the total number of people under 90 or 95 to adhere to the Maine CDC’s guidelines for in-person outdoor gatherings.
Runners and walkers in the 5K will need to wear masks at the start and end of the race but can take their masks off once they begin running. The 5K will have a slower start to allow participants to remain apart from one another. Though the 5K is timed, no prizes will be given at the event to maintain social distancing.
Despite the array of COVID-19-related challenges, Kelley encourages as many people who can attend in person to do so and show their support for Libby, his family and all veterans that have made the ultimate sacrifices for their country.
“During this time, when families have been more socially isolated, it’s important for them to understand that as a community and a nation we’re not going to forget their loved ones or let their sacrifices be in vain,” Kelley said.
Registration and COVID-19 guideline information for the Memorial Challenge can be found at https://competitorme.com/.