One step at a time, Allen works to complete trek from Maine to D.C.Cranberry Island resident runs nearly 50 miles per day to support causes
What started as a snowmobile ride to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island likely will end with significantly more fanfare for Gary Allen of Cranberry Island.
Allen, a well-known Maine distance runner and the founder of the MDI Marathon, began an incredibly impressive journey by foot on Monday, Jan. 7 on Mount Desert Island that he plans to conclude on Monday, Jan. 21 in Washington D.C. — the day after the presidential inauguration.
The 55-year-old Allen, who will turn age 56 on Jan. 29, came up with the idea for his more than 700-mile journey in November, when the New York City Marathon was canceled due to the adverse affects of Hurricane Sandy.
On his way back from that event, Allen had an epiphany.
"On the ride home from New York I thought, 'I wonder if I could run all the way this far?,' " Allen said.
"And then I thought, 'Well, if I'm going to do something like that, how the heck can I benefit an awful lot of people?' "
Allen, who "was born motivated," then made the declaration to many of his friends and peers through social media that he planned to begin the trek and would also be using his journey to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project and the American Cancer Society.
He later added the Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Release Fund to his list of charities after the mass shooting took the lives of 26 students and staff members on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn.
As of Jan. 16, Allen had raised $3,130 for the Wounded Warrior Project, $2,285 for the American Cancer Society and $440 for the Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Release Fund.
Allen crossed the border into New York State Wednesday afternoon and has been getting more and more press coverage as his journey traverses toward the nation's capital (see Allen's progress by click the link below).
"I don't think I'm really worth all the fuss, and I'm certainly not doing it for the fuss," he said in a phone interview while running through Connecticut. "But if people want to go online and figure out who the old guy running through their town is, they can go online and donate to Sandy Hook Elementary [School Victims Release Fund], the Wounded Warrior Project or the American Cancer Society, it's all good."
"He's really inspired by all this turnout," said Larry, Gary's brother, who has been with him on the trip. "It fuels him. When he's down someone is on the side of the road trying to give him money for a charity because they saw him on the news the night before, it carries him for another mile and another mile and it just keeps happening over again."
Depending on how his body and soul feels, the mileage Allen covers each day varies, but he has averaged about 50 miles each day to stay on pace to reach Washington on schedule.
Allen's trek has been getting more and more notoriety and he has had police escorts and people lining the streets with signs and cheers of support for much of the past few days.
"I'm just a guy from a little island in Maine and I just ran through Greenwich, Conn. with people cheering for me and they have no idea who I am," Allen said. "It's amazing."
Allen has had numerous items donated to him by strangers and well-wishers throughout the course of his journey, ranging from clothing, such as socks, windbreakers and long-sleeve shirts, to chiropractic treatment, massage therapy and podiatry care.
Allen is no stranger to running. And running long, grueling distances.
Allen has taken part in 86 marathons, his first in 1977.
"There's a group of about 12 runners in the world that have been able to accomplish sub-three-hour marathons in five consecutive decades," said Allen's brother, Larry. "And Gary's on that list."
Allen began his journey at the top of Cadillac Mountain as he was snowmobiled to the summit of the 1,528-foot mountain.
"This time of year Cadillac Mountain is the first place in the U.S. that sees the morning sun," Allen said. "It's kind of an epic place. Epic things should happen in epic places."
Allen snowshoed to the bottom of the mountain and began his long trek, which was plotted by Rockland District High School graduate Eric Mauricette, also an accomplished distance runner.
Mauricette, a 2009 RDHS graduate who resides in Old Town, volunteered to map out Allen's route. Mauricette and Allen both are members of the Crow Athletics Running Club.
"He just did this whole thing on a whim," said Mauricette of Allen. "When I read about it first all I could think is, 'Wow, this is crazy. What is he thinking about here? Has he gone bonkers finally?' But he needed someone to plan his route and I just stepped up."
Allen had a basic outline, but Mauricette calculated it from start to finish using different online mapping programs, keeping Allen away from larger highways, if possible, and sticking more to smaller roads and Route 1.
Allen will traverse back roads, trails, through towns and cities and will even run on Interstate 95 for short periods of time. In essence, his route has a little bit of everything.
"Eric Mauricette has been huge in this," said Allen. "The route I'm running on right now and have been running on for the past 10 days is all him. Whenever I step out onto the course a little piece of Eric Mauricette is with me. He planned this route, and it's perfect."
Mauricette initially met Allen as he exited MDI and ran intermittently with him to Rockland, where Allen was joined for a short leg of his journey by several Midcoast runners.
Allen has had many people running with him for legs of his long journey, many of them strangers.
"I tell runners when they join me [to] follow my lead," Allen said. "If I'm talkative I want to talk and if I'm quiet I don't want you to talk and I don't want to talk."
"And don't push the pace."
Surprisingly, what has been as challenging for Allen as the run itself has been maintaining a calorie intake of anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 a day. He burns so many calories each day that is difficult to maintain. And he must drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
He eats pretzels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate and fruit, amidst gallons of water and nutritious fluids, in addition to a large meal every evening before retiring for the night.
Members of his crew, of which he has several that follows him in a vehicle, will shuttle ahead two to three miles and prepare food and water for Allen, which happens fairly consistently throughout the day.
"I feel like all I do is hydrate and eat," Allen said. "And I'm not really hungry, but if I don't eat, two hours later I get behind on my calories and I crash and it takes me two hours to feel human again. And so I'm eating almost out of fear because I don't want to feel that way."
Maurciette is one of potentially thousands who have followed Allen's progress online at myathletelive.com.
"It's been really fun watching him," Mauricette said. "I was involved and helping out those first two days and just seeing him go through those two days and seeing him take the rest of his journey following the live tracking through MyAthlete, it's been fun and it's amazing what he can accomplish."
Allen admitted the trek is the hardest thing he's ever done, equating it to "basically running two Boston Marathon's every day."
"This takes 'hard' to a whole other level," he said. "I don't think I even knew what my limits were. I feel like I've thrown them out the window at this point."
Allen said while he's "trashed" three pairs of shoes already, he plans to buy another pair before pounding the pavement across much of New York Thursday, Jan. 17 before arriving in Washington D.C. — hopefully Monday Morning, Jan. 21.
"I'm going to try to get there for the inauguration, and if I can't, I hope people don't think any less of me," Allen said. "My number one goal is to get to D.C. If I have to turn myself inside out I'll get there."
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.