There will be more than two dozen half marathons in Maine in 2017, but the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon is fast becoming the gold standard.

The 13.1-mile Portland race, now in its seventh year – with more than 4,200 entrants in Saturday’s half marathon and 5K – has become the second most popular running event in Maine behind the world famous TD Beach to Beacon 10K and its 6,500-plus runners.

And it’s popularity extends well beyond the Maine borders. The allure of Portland in the summer, the breathtaking views, the chance to visit friends and family and even perhaps for a lobster roll after the race, the race keeps growing for a lot of reasons.

Race director Erik Boucher said close to 70 percent of entrants are from out of state, with more than 40 states represented. There were runners from Canada and other nations signed up, as well.

“This is a destination race,” he said. “It’s the nature of race – it’s more about the experience than competition.”

“This is just a great race – it’s so scenic,” said Tom Boyle, of Marietta, Georgia. “There are a couple tough hills, but the good news is they’re early. You run around the harbor and see the little of the city.

“Everyone is friendly. And there is good beer afterward.”

Boyle and his longtime friend Joel Green come up to the area to spend time in Ogunquit with their families, a vacation they planned around the race.

“We come up every year for this event,” said Green, who lives in Fairfield, Connecticut. “It certainly brings our families to Portland.”

The course starts and ends at the Ocean Gateway Terminal on the east end of Commercial Street, and winds through the Western Promenade, Eastern Promenade, around the Back Cove and past East End Beach.

For many it is a chance to come back to their home state. Men’s winner Malcolm Thomas grew up in Yarmouth. He played soccer and hockey at North Yarmouth Academy, and the Boston resident now runs two or three half marathons a year.

“I come here for the weekend and it’s great to be in Portland and participate in this event,” said Thomas, who finished first in 1:15:55 in his fifth Old Port attempt.

He obviously knows the appeal of Portland but has also heard from runners from all across the country who love the setting.

“(People comment on) the restaurants, being on the water and just the atmosphere as being fantastic,” said Thomas, who pulled away after mile 3 following the first hill heading into the Western Promenade.

Amanda Gross of Chicago decided to fly in and celebrate a special day by running in Maine. It also gave her a chance to enjoy some of her favorite things the state has to offer.

“It’s my birthday and my buddy James lives (in Boston) and he said lets run this half marathon together for your birthday,” said Gross. “I love the lobster rolls and my friend founded Baxter Brewing in Lewiston so I thought it would be fun to go there.”

Cortney Berling, the women’s division winner in 1:26:49, recently moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, and was visiting Maine for the first time. She is running a marathon in Erie, Pennsylvania, later in the year and Sunday’s race worked perfectly for her training schedule.

“My husband and I were camping in Freeport and I had to do a long run today and I saw the race was going on so I signed up this morning,” said Berling, who runs in about four half marathons every year. “So we slept in a tent last night in Freeport and today my husband registered me while I was warming up.”

She said from her first impression she likes what she sees.

“I would definitely come back. Absolutely,” said Berling. “I like Portland so far. I can’t wait to hang out, grab a beer and just relax for the rest of the day.”

Christina Sossong, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, has run in 75 half marathons in 14 states. The Old Port Half ranks near the top for her.

“I run half marathons for personal accomplishment. It’s a fun hobby to see different states and this state is quite beautiful,” she said. “I heard this was a pretty good race. And I’d put it in my top five, for sure. It is beautiful, very scenic and a well-designed course.”

Sossong is taking advantage of her first trip to Maine by making sure to take in two things for which Maine is known – lighthouses and breweries.

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