Maine Marathon to challenge runners, reward charities

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PORTLAND — The Maine Marathon is more than just another road race along scenic byways with medals given out to the fastest runners.

It’s also an event committed to giving back to the community: during the past 20 years the marathon has raised more than $4 million for charities, according to its website.

The beneficiary of this year’s race is Portland-based Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness. But the Cromwell Center is not the only nonprofit to benefit.

For the past two years runners supporting the Josephine and John Marr Alzheimer’s Research Fund have also raised money in honor of the Marr family of Falmouth.

The marathon will be held Sunday, Oct. 1, and starts and ends at Back Cove in Portland. The route also goes through Falmouth, Cumberland and Yarmouth.

Motorists should expect road closures throughout the morning and early afternoon Sunday. Affected roadways include Baxter Boulevard, Washington and Veranda streets in Portland; Depot Road, Town Landing Road and Routes 1 and 88 in Falmouth; Tuttle Road in Cumberland, and Gilman Road in Yarmouth.

The Gorham Savings Bank Maine Marathon also includes a half marathon and a marathon relay, and is a U.S.A. Track & Field-certified course, as well as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.

This year, the Marr research fund will see its biggest contingent of runners, with more than 130 taking part.

The Marr team hopes to raise at least $157,000, according to Caroline Duncan, assistant director of the running program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where the fund is based. If successful, it would be a fundraising milestone.

Its goal is to “fuel innovative research collaborations aimed at preventing Alzheimer’s disease,” according to Duncan. 

“Named for John and his beloved wife Josephine, the fund is inspired by Josephine’s courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease and the hope that new research will put an end to this devastating disease for future generations,” Duncan said this week.

The Marr team originally consisted of mostly family and friends, but has now grown to include a wide range of “individuals impacted by this horrible disease,” Duncan said.

In addition to the original $2 million gift from the Marr family, the Alzheimer’s research fund has also received a total of $343,000 in donations from those running the Maine Marathon over the past two years.

Susan Greenwood, the executive director at the Cromwell Center, is thrilled her organization was chosen as the main beneficiary of the Maine Marathon this year.

“The contribution from (the) marathon will have a very significant impact on our small organization and our ability” to keep providing key programs to local schools, Greenwood said this week.

Her hope is to get about $50,000 from the race.

Not only is fundraising from events like the Maine Marathon critical, she said, but “being the marathon’s nonprofit recipient also gives us a chance to make more people aware of what we do and why our message of dignity, respect and inclusion are so important.”

The mission of the Cromwell Center, Greenwood said, is to “promote safe, respectful and inclusive schools and communities” for those with disabilities.

The center was founded in 2003, and although almost 17 percent of children in Maine schools have a disability, they’re still “much more likely to be excluded from social and educational opportunities and (be) teased, harassed and bullied,” she said.

Experiencing this type of behavior “can devastate students with disabilities,” Greenwood added, which is part of the reason their drop-out rate is twice that of children who are not disabled.

But lower academic achievement is not the only negative outcome of being teased, harassed and bullied, according to Greenwood. It can also lead to a loss of self-esteem and confidence, depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress.

That’s why it’s so important for the Cromwell Center to be able to provide programs that teach kids to “understand that disabilities are an aspect of human diversity” and to “practice empathy and inclusion,” Greenwood said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Among the charitable organizations benefiting from this year’s Maine Marathon is the Josephine and John Marr Alzheimer’s Research Fund, which was created with a $2 million gift from the Marr family of Falmouth.