In the wake of the recent scandals, controversy and elitism that have plagued so many team sports, it is refreshing to recognize a pastime that unites communities, and is accessible to virtually all backgrounds and abilities: running.

In Maine, running on roads, track and trail has become arguably the state’s most popular sport, with literally thousands taking part in scores of events, many of which support non-profit fundraising initiatives. Three running events in Maine sell out in just one day — the Beach to Beacon 10K, the Mid-Winter Classic 10 miler and the women’s Tri for a Cure. Many others fill to capacity within weeks.

This year marks the 20th induction ceremony of the Maine Running Hall of Fame, an organization dedicated to supporting and honoring Maine running. Founded in 1988 by Bob Payne, the organization’s inaugural induction ceremony honored Maine running legends and Olympians Joan Benoit Samuelson and Bruce Bickford, and has grown to nearly 100 honorees.

Among national and world-class athletes, the hall of fame honors athletes and coaches who are highly accomplished but otherwise might not be recognized. For example, the 1956 Waterville High School cross-country team that won the New England championships. Beginning in 2006, the hall of fame began recognizing legendary road races in Maine, such as the L.L. Bean 10K, Tour du Lac 10 miler in Bucksport, and the Thanksgiving Day 4-Miler in Portland.

In a world where there is so much divisiveness around politics, religion, and even our professional sports teams, it is fitting to celebrate the individual athletes who run to support inclusive competition, personal health and fitness, and fundraising throughout nearly every city and town of our great state.

The hall of fame welcomes nominations for runners and races to be honored at this year’s indication ceremony. For more information, visit mainerunninghof.wordpress.com.

Todd Coffin

Freeport


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