RACE WEEKEND: Featured Guests
Melissa is a road and trail runner, with 51 marathon or greater distance races to her name. She has completed eight 100-mile races, 2 snowshoe marathons, two Ironman triathlons, and has run Boston twice. One might think that a history of athleticism is what brought Melissa to her love of endurance racing, but it was actually the wonderful energy of all the runners who showed up in Bar Harbor for the MDI marathon in 2011.
In October of 2011, at the age of 42, Melissa had only recently gained enough energy herself to go back to work full time. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in her mid-20’s, and had been suffering from MS-related fatigue for years. She happened to be in town on Marathon weekend, and was so inspired by the crowds of athletes that she decided to listen to her neurologist’s long-ignored encouragement to exercise more. She signed up to run 26.2 miles on the roads of MDI the following year. She didn’t even own running shoes.
To hear about how you may inspire a life changing decision just by showing up to run a race, please come to the pre-race dinner to hear more of Melissa’s story. You may be inspired yourself.
2018 Featured Speaker
Rob Gomez is the founder & owner of Eastern Shore Training (EST), a Maine-based online running coaching service established in 2014 as a way for Rob to share his passion for long-distance road racing with others.
After competing at high levels in both cross country and track in high school and then in college, Rob spent a number of years away from running. It was his return to racing with the completion of the 2007 Chicago Marathon when he re-discovered his appreciation for running. Since then, Rob has been able to channel this passion into a number of successes in road racing, most notably the New England Runner Magazine's Maine Runner of the Year in 2013, a win at the 2013 Maine Marathon, two top-40 finishes at the Boston Marathon and a total of five marathons in under 2:25.
In addition to individual successes, Rob has been able to contribute to the Maine running community in various ways. In particular, he held positions as vice president and then president of the board between 2011 and 2014 for Dirigo Running Club. He was also head coach of the girls' and boys' cross country teams at Biddeford High School in 2009 and 2010. Since 2014, Rob has been able to share what he has learned over his 15+ years of successful running and racing with clients of all ages and ability levels.
2017 Featured Speaker and athlete
One might say that Leah’s running career began by repeatedly missing the bus in middle school. At the time, her family was living in Switzerland, so the trip to school meant dashing down mountain trails, cutting across the donkey pasture (stopping to say ‘ciao Flavio, ciao Ghilda’ to the morose long-eared pair), and racing through the valley to announce herself sweaty and late to class. What a thrill!
She tried racing a little here and there, but it wasn’t until nearly 20 years later that she discovered her love of competitive running when she took up the sport while feeling lonesome living in Mexico. The community of runners and companionship was a welcome gift.
From her very first Crow Athletics race in 2013 when she came back to the U.S., Leah knew she had found a family in Crow and is honored and proud to be among the first members of Crow’s Elite team.
Now with 16 marathons, 3 ultras and many other individual, team and relay road and trail races under her belt, she is still passionate about running and racing for the camaraderie of training and racing with friends as well as the long meditative solitary time it affords her.
While living in Vermont she coached high school cross country and, as with Crow, found the team of young athletes and their families to be fun-loving, tough, supportive, kind and generous- continuously providing resounding affirmation for her lofty ideals and warm fuzzy feelings about the sport.
Upon moving back to her home state of Maine last December she was immediately welcomed into a group of talented and hard-working runners with whom she trains and goofs off daily, some of whom are here in support today!
She worked to promote access to education and health care services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers for several years and is now pursuing a Master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Her goal is to work in a high school, teaching ESL and coaching cross country.
Leah currently resides in the Deering Center neighborhood of Portland with her amazing wife, Katherine, and their growing family of the cutest critters ever.
▶︎ 2016 JFK 50 Mile Champion, recording the third fastest time ever.
▶︎ 3x Mount Desert Island Marathon victor in 2013, 2015, 2016, while recording the second fastest time ever with her win in 2015.
▶︎ Completed the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles by recording a 2:42:52 qualifying time (and personal best) at the California International Marathon in December of 2015.
▶︎ 3x Maine Marathon champion
▶︎ 3x Sugarloaf Marathon champion
▶︎ Podium finisher at both the Hartford and Vermont City Marathons
Leah's amazing personality, powerful stride, and fearless attitude is a plus for any race she enters!
Leah went on to win the 2017 MDI Marathon, notching her fourth event victory.
2015 & 2016 Featured Speaker and athlete
Mike is a native of neighboring Great Cranberry Island, where he first began running as a young boy. He grew into one of the top runners in the state, working his mile time down to 4:19 while studying at the University of Maine in Orono, and eventually lowering his marathon time down to 2:29:32 in 1980.
After marrying and having a family in the early 80's Mike continued running to stay in shape, but took a step back from the competitive sport.
This past June, Mike toed the line of his first marathon in over 23 years at age 58. He finished in 3:32:56, qualifying for the 2016 Boston Marathon -- a tremendous feat for any runner -- but what makes Michael's race story so remarkable is that he has Parkinson's Disease, and he is using his running and racing to raise funds for a cure through Team Fox and the The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
Mike's PD BQ story has garnered world-wide attention and has inspired literally millions of people around the globe! It is truly an honor and a privilege to welcome him as our extra special guest speaker and guest athlete!
2014 Featured Speaker
After graduating as a runner at Dartmouth College, Alexi finished her remaining two seasons of eligibility at University of Oregon, and helped lead the team to two NCAA Team titles in the 2012 cross country and 2013 indoor track seasons. Alexi was also a Top 9 Nominee for the 2012 NCAA Woman of the Year Award. Alexi is now a professional runner with the Nike Oregon Track Club Elite in Eugene with her eyes on 2016.
Alexi started her career as a steeple chaser, but has more recently gotten the distance "bug!" She was the 3rd place female finisher at the 2013 US Champs CVS 5K Road Racing Champs and has a 5k PR of15:28. She finished 4th in the 2014 US 15K Championships, and most recently set a 26 second PR on the roads in the 10k at the TD Beach to Beacon Race with a time of 32:31.
Alexi has simultaneously been training to make the Olympic team while writing, co-producing, and starring in her upcoming film, Tracktown. She co-wrote her first film Tall as the Baobab Tree while in college, which was distributed through the Sundance Institute.
You can find Alexi's daily running and life amusings on her Twitter at @alexipappas.
Alexi and her relay teammates, Sarah Emerson and Danielle Sterling of 'Unicorns and Mermaids' won the 2014 MDI Marathon 3-Person Relay
2014 Guest Athlete
Recruited to run for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1999, Minnesota native Leah Thorvilson has continued to call "The Rock" home ever since and has gone on to win the city's marathon five times, setting the course record and her personal best of 2:37:26 in 2012, only a few short weeks after racing against the best runners in the country at the US Olympic Trials Women's Marathon in Houston, Texas. Again, only weeks after her Little Rock Marathon victory, Leah made her 50 mile debut at the Frisco Railroad Run clocking a 6:00:31 finishing time, the fourth-fastest time ever run by an American woman at the distance. By May, Leah held the longest winning streak of any distance runner in the world in 2012.
Leah has raced in Maine twice before, both times at the legendary Great Cranberry Island Ultra Marathon, setting the course record in 2011 with a finish time of 3:32:00. She is a member of our host running club, Crow Athletics.
Leah went on to win the 2014 MDI Marathon in 2:49:13, setting a new course record!
The race was her first (and consequently, her last) since having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in April.
2013 Featured Speaker
Zoë Romano is a runner and writer. A native of Portland, Maine, Zoë now trains and resides in Richmond, Virginia. In 2011 she ran 2,867 miles across the US, alone, becoming the first female to ever complete such a trek without a support vehicle and raising over $15,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She has spoken at various youth-based events, been a guest of sports podcasts and radio shows, and is eager to hit the road again.
Zoë first fell in love with running while a student at the University of Richmond, from where she graduated magna cum laude in 2009 with degrees in Spanish and International Studies. She currently writes an outdoor column for Ditch Magazine and tutors Spanish in Richmond, VA. On March 22nd, 2013 Zoë was a featured speaker at TEDxRVA.
Most recently Zoë became the only person ever to run the entire Tour de France route while raising over $168K for the World Pediatric Project, an international humanitarian organization that provides access to surgical and diagnostic medical care for children in Central America and the Caribbean.
2012 Featured Speaker
"I started my running career as a sprinter in high school (Anacortes, Wa.) and college (Skagit Valley CC and Eastern Washington University.) I taught high school for 1 year in Dayton, Washington where I continued to run while teaching and coaching. I truly began my long distance running career up on my return from Vietnam in late 1969, where I was station at Marine Corps base Camp Lejuene, NC. I spent 12 years on active duty attaining the rank of Captain before the leaving the Marine Corps in 1979. I ran my first marathon in January of 1972, at the Duraleigh Marathon in North Carolina and finished 4th in 2:42. I continued to run various distances from the mile to the marathon and in 1974 I ran my first ultra marathon, the National AAU 50 km Championships in Kent, Washington, where I finished 3rd overall in 3hr 2 min. I then ran my second ultra in September of 1976, the Striders 50 mile on the track in Santa Monica, CA. I won the race going wire to wire running it in 5 hr 30 min. I ran my second 50-Miler, this one on the roads at the National AAU Championships in Central Park, New York City, wining my first of 3 national 50 mile championships in 5 hrs 36 min. Since that time I have run over 100 marathons and 155 ultra marathons."
Career Highlights Include:
Three times National Champion at 50 Miles, 1976, 1979 & 1980.
Two times National Champion at 100K, 1979 & 1980.
Former American record holder for 100K.
First American to run 100K under 7:00 with a time of 6:51.
Ranked third in the world at 100K in 1979.
Current and past course record holder in many events from 50K to 100 miles.
Age group champion at several US National Championships.
Published author and featured speaker at many running events.
Featured in running magazines, newspapers and television in both the US and abroad.
100 yards: 10.2 sec
440 yards: 49.5 sec
880 yards: 1 min 58 sec
Mile: 4 min 28 sec
3 Miles: 14 min 10 sec
10K: 29 min 50 sec
Marathon: 2 hr 25 min 26 sec (1975)
50K (road): 3 hr 2 min 24 sec (1974)
50K (track): 3 hr 3 min 35 sec (1975 - *American Record)
50 Mile (road): 5 hr 5 min 35 sec (1979 - *American Record)
50 Mile (track): 5 hr 30 min 31 sec (1976)
100K: 6 hr 51 min 20 sec (1979 - *American Record)
100 Mile (trail): 15 hrs 17 min 20 sec (1980 - Best trail time)
2012 Guest Athlete
Justin Gillette has been a runner since childhood and now rarely runs a marathon over 2:35, even though he races dozens of times per year. Currently third on the all-time American win-list in the marathon distance, his victories are all the more impressive because of the level of competition he runs against.
Justin has won over 50 marathons, and holds a 2:25:44 PR. He is currently the assistant cross country and track coach at Goshen College, his alma mater, as well as providing coaching services online.
Justin finished third overall at the 2012 Mount Desert Island Marathon in 2:36:29.
2011 Guest Athlete
Michael Wardian started running and competing in triathlons in 1996 after successfully completing 3.5 seasons of Division I lacrosse at Michigan State University. In his marathon debut in 1996 he qualified for the Boston Marathon, and has since completed more than 100+ marathons and ultra marathons on three continents, 20 triathlons, including Iron Man Lake Placid, the Marathon Des Sables (250K-self sufficient race in Sahara Desert) and one adventure race.
Michael runs approximately four races per month ranging in distance from 1 Mile to 150 Mile Marathons and holds a full time job as an international ship broker. He live in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife, Jennifer, and their sons Pierce and Grant.
Michael won the 2011 MDI Marathon in 2:32:36, narrowly missing the course record. He placed third in the Hartford Marathon, held the day before, finishing in 2:22:18.
JOHN L. PARKER, JR.
2011 Featured Speaker
John L. Parker, Jr. is the author of Once a Runner, which was published by his own company in 1977 and reprinted 10 times over the next 30 years. When the hardcover edition was released by Scribner in April of 2009, it made it to the top 15 of the New York Times bestseller list. The sequel, Again to Carthage, was released in hardcover in 2007 and immediately went through multiple printings. Paperback Scribner editions of both books have now been released. Once a Runner has now been translated into German, Dutch, Brazilian Portugese, Australian, Taiwan Chinese, Mainland Chinese, Korean and Turkish. Both books have been released in audio format.
Parker originally attended the University of Florida as a full-scholarship basketball player and later became captain of the track team, winning the Southeastern Conference mile champion three times, the USATF national steeplechase champion and three-mile runner-up. He was all-SEC in cross country and track and finished in the top 20 at the AAU national cross-country meet. He held all or part of seven university track & field records when he graduated.
He has written for Outside magazine, Runner's World, Ultrasport, Running Times, and numerous other publications.
ROGER & HOGAN MARQUIS
2010 Featured Co-Speakers
Whether you have already had the pleasure of meeting Roger and Hogan Marquis, or not, one of the first things they'll tell you is that they're just regular runners, doing what they love to do. However, their story is a bit more compelling than that. They have a habit of doing something they like to call a 'Wicked Long Run', where they cover incredible distances. In 2009 they ran 500 miles, the length of Maine, in 10 days from Ft. Kent to Kittery, to benefit Camp CaPella in Holden, who provides quality of life experience for young people with disabilities and their families. In 2010 they ran 1,371 miles in 27 days from Maine to Florida to benefit the American Cancer Society. (Roger started each day with a full 26.2 marathon, many in around 4 hours, sometimes in 100 degree heat.) What makes their journey more incredible is that they do this unaided by any support vehicles.
On top of all the great things they do and have done Roger is also a fixture at marathons nationwide where he volunteers regularly as a pace group leader, setting aside his personal running goals to help others meet theirs. Giving back is a way of life for the Marquis' and we're proud to host Roger and Hogan as our guest speakers.
2010 Guest Athlete
2009 Featured Speaker
Louie Luchini was an eight time All-American while at Stanford University and holds the school record for 5,000 meters in 13:25. He was member of the prestigious Nike Farm team and more recently he is a member of the Oregon Track Club Elite Program. Among his many running achievements, he has both competed with and beat his former teammate, Ryan Hall, who won the US Olympic trials marathon in 2008 and finished 3rd overall at the 2009 Boston Marathon.
Louie has competed in international level track and field at home and in Europe, including the 2004 US Olympic track team trials. Louie had the honor of being invited to be an official pace setter at the 2008 Prefontaine Classic in Oregon where Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele attempted a world record for 10,000 meters.
Louie's current marathon PR is 2:26:26, set at the 2009 California International Marathon -- his marathon debut.
Louie lives in his home town of Ellsworth, Maine. He is State Representative for District 38, and assistant coach at Ellsworth High School.
Louie has won the Mount Desert Island Marathon three times in three attempts
(2010, 2012, 2013)
he set a course record of 2:30:41 in 2012
2008 Featured Speaker
Sheri Piers has quickly distinguished herself as one of the best women's marathon runners in history from our state. She ran her first sub-3 hour marathon (2:56:40) in October 2006 and lowered her time to 2:45:36 in 2007 to qualify for the Olympic Trials, which were held in Boston this past spring. Sheri finished in 16th place overall in a personal best time of 2:38:46.
Sheri is a full time nurse practitioner, mother of three, and member of the Dirigo Racing Club. She lives in Falmouth, Maine.
Sheri placed third in the 2016 MDI Half Marathon.
JOAN BENOIT SAMUELSON
2007 Featured Speaker
Joan Benoit Samuelson's name is synonymous with women's running. She began running track in high school in the town of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Samuelson continued on to Bowdoin College, where her career soared. She received All-American honors in cross-country and track, and won the Boston Marathon in 1979, setting an American and course record, all before she graduated. Samuelson won the Boston Marathon again in 1983, this time breaking the world record. One year later, at the age of 27, she won the gold medal in the first women's marathon at the Los Angeles Olympics. In 1985, Samuelson won the Chicago Marathon with an American record time of 2:21:21.
In 1998 Samuelson founded the TD Bank 10K as a way to give back to the sport which has given her so much. The race motto started as "Shine the Light on Kids", and benefits a different children's charity each year. More than a decade later the race annually attracts over 6,000 runners, including some of the world's most elite as well as first time competitors. Over 10,000 spectators attend every year making it one of hottest summer tickets in New England.
Joan (or "Joanie" as she's known to many) lives with her husband Scott, in Freeport Maine. They have two children, Abby and Anders.
2006 HONORARY RACE STARTER
Kim Lodrup is the President of 2006 presenting sponsor Red Lobster. He started his career there in 2003 as the Executive Vice President of Marketing. Lopdrup began his career in brand management at Procter & Gamble, working on Folgers and High Point coffees and Citrus Hill orange juice.
Lopdrup serves on the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. he earned a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the College of William and Mary and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.
Kim Lopdrup's first taste of lobster was enjoyed while vactioning in Bar Harbor as a child. Mount Desert Island has held a special place in his heart since.
GERARD PEARLBERG "COACH GP"
2006 Featured Speaker
The youngest of three very talented children, GP grew up in Brighton, England. At age eighteen, his brother Neil was given a chance to try out for the Chelsea Football Club. Later, Neil went on to play tournament level golf with aspirations of making the PGA tour. GP's sister Nicole was an accomplished swimmer and musician. GP had a lot to live up to. He managed to do this by outworking his teammates and opponents alike. Despite the fact that jogging was unheard of in Brighton in the 1970ss, GP spent each school vacation running laps around his neighborhood, including one very long hill; he was determined to improve his times.
GP moved to Losa Angelous and completed his first marathon in 1990 at age 27, at a time of 4.41.05. Over the next eight years GP improved his marathon time to 2.34.43, and during the same time was able to bring his individual mile time down to 4.21. In September 1990, GP relocated from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz, California. GP retired from road racing in 2004 after completing 22 marathons and hundreds of road and track races.
2005 HONORARY RACE STARTER
A long time visitor to Mount Desert Island, Martha purchased her Seal Harbor home, 'Skylands', 1997. It is formerly the estate of Edsel and Eleanor Ford and was built for them in 1925. When asked what she loves about Maine in three words, her answer was "beauty, freshness and clarity... What really appeals to me about this place is the pure air, the topography, the beautiful ocean. And there's so much to do, physically for me. I really like climbing and hiking, I like canoeing, kayaking, sailing."
In 2001, Ladies Home Journal named her the third most powerful woman in America. By 2002, the magazine Martha Stewart Living was selling more than 2 million copies per issue, and her syndicated television program was seen by millions around the world.
In 2005 she began a new daily television program, The Martha Stewart Show, as well as a weekly call-in show on the Sirius satellite radio network. In a new book, The Martha Rules, she shared her strategy for starting and managing a new business. More new books followed, including The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook and Homekeeping Handbook. She made regular appearances on The Today Show, while her own program was nominated for six daytime Emmy Awards.
2005 Featured Starting Line Announcer
Steve Zirnkilton is the signature voice of NBC's critically acclaimed Law & Order brand; which in addition to the "mothership" includes Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Los Angeles and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. After completing 20 seasons on NBC, Law & Order joined Gunsmoke as the longest running drama on prime time television. Among others, Steve's credits include; NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, Discovery Channel, TLC, TNT, TBS, ESPN and the Cartoon Network. His voice has been heard on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno as well as the animated series Family Guy. He was the voice of the reporter in the animated feature film The Rugrats Movie. And baseball fans know him as the narrator for the documentary Faith Rewarded, a film about the Boston Red Sox historic World Championship season. Steve has been the live announcer for the Kennedy Center Honors, and for the past 10 years he has joined John Walsh as the on-stage announcer for the Top Cops Awards in Washington, D.C.
Zirnkilton has lived with his family in Seal Harbor, Maine for over 20 years.
(Fun fact: Dick Wolfe, creator of the Law & Order series has a summer home on Cooksey Drive in Seal Harbor -- right on the marathon course!)
2004 & 2005
For a brief moment in the early 1980's Dick Beardsley became the most famous runner in the world - by losing a race. In the 1982 Boston Marathon, Beardsley, foiled by a motorcycle that cut him off near the end, finished two seconds behind Alberto Salazar in a contest often called one of the most memorable in marathon history. It was the closest finish ever at the world`s premier marathon, and both runners broke the course and the American records.
The story of Dick's running career alone is the stuff of legends, but it is the story that comes after that draws people in and keeps them listening. After retiring from running, Dick had a series of near fatal accidents that left him addicted to pain killers. His story of overcoming extreme obstacles speaks to anyone who loves competition, who has survived catastrophe, or who has pursued a seemingly impossible goal.