The Portland Phoenix

No better time to run, swim, paddle or bike

Grant Ballantyne of South Portland runs on the pedestrian ramp of the Casco Bay Bridge. (Courtesy Leslie Ballantyne)

Charging along the residential streets of coastal Maine under the summer sun, your pace bolstered by clanging bells, the shouts of cheering spectators, and the determination of every runner on the road alongside you.

Crawling through a mud-filled culvert, panting and giddy with the silliness of it, and rising to high-five a teammate before jogging off together to tackle a high-strung cargo net.

Crossing the finish line, legs spent and a heart filled with pride, after cycling for three days and 180 miles along the scenic and hilly roads of Maine.

Shelby Peavey of Raymond rides her bike on the Eastern trail in South Portland. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

These are the physical challenges we rise to every year, the feats of endurance we rightfully brag about on Instagram. The Trek Across Maine, the TD Beach to Beacon, the Dynamic Dirt Challenge, the Peaks to Portland and so many others – are the rides and races that Maine springs and summers are made of, whether we’re participating for the first time or the 20th.

But this year, things are different.

Coronavirus has deeply affected every aspect of our lives, and most spring and summer events have been impacted, too. With our safety a priority, race organizers are making tough but necessary decisions. Many events, like the TD Beach to Beacon and Dynamic Dirt Challenge, have been canceled for 2020. Others have been postponed. Still others are hovering hopefully in the wings, waiting to see how the coming weeks unfold.

It’s heartbreak all around, not simply because these events are a highlight for many and a final achievement following months of training, but because their cancellations confirm a truth we’ve perhaps been avoiding: this summer won’t be like any other.

On top of that, many of these events are major fundraisers for Maine nonprofits and the vital work they do in our state. The cancellations are a financial blow to the organizations behind them.

But all’s not lost. Several events have gone virtual, which means we can still ride, swim, run, and even paddle for a good cause. We’ll just have to use our imagination when it comes to the on-road camaraderie, the cheering crowds, and the post-race carbohydrates.

Scratch that – you can absolutely still indulge in post-race carbohydrates. And you can sprint after your goals, log every mile, and revel in your achievement, knowing you stuck with it at a time when everything felt a little bit harder.

And that’s an accomplishment you can feel doubly grand about.

Cyclist Hannah Wolken of Portland takes a selfie following a spring bike ride. Wolken has participated in the Trek Across Maine eight times and will be joining this year’s virtual event. (Courtesy Hannah Wolken)

Trek Across Maine

Typically held on Father’s Day weekend, the Trek Across Maine is a three-day, 180-mile bike ride that attracts cyclists of all ages and experience levels. It’s an annual tradition for many. It’s also the American Lung Association’s largest fundraiser. This year, the ride is a virtual event. Participants are encouraged to ride as many miles as they’d like, wherever they’d like. The registration fee is $15 and the fundraising minimum has been reduced from $500 to $250.

For more info:

Paddle for Pine Tree Camp

This event typically takes shape as a mellow two-hour paddle down the Kennebec River, followed by a barbecue. This year, you’re welcome to paddle wherever you’d like and for as long as you’d like. Or you can switch it up and opt to run or walk – how you’d like to hit the fundraising minimum of $100 is up to you. Every dollar of money raised by June 6 goes to Pine Tree Camp’s programming.

For more info:

Tri for a Cure

This women’s sprint triathlon is both an accomplishment and a celebratory experience for participants and supporters. Registration also fills up fast every year. This year’s virtual event is open to any woman who’d like to participate. Participants can create their own swim/ride/run combination and complete it during the month of August. The updated fundraising minimum is $250.

For more info:

Cobscook Bay Road Race: Social Distancing Challenge

The Cobscook Bay Road Races are on hold until 2021, but in the meantime, meet the Social Distancing Challenge. Complete a 5K or 10K course from April 15-June 1 and support Down East Hospice Volunteers. Registration is $20 for the 5K and the 10K.

For more info:

Leslie Ballantyne, an avid runner and founder of the Old Port Pub Run, captures a selfie during a solo run. Ballantyne, of South Portland, is also on the board of Girls on the Run Maine, which is hosting a virtual 5K. (Courtesy Leslie Ballantyne)

Urban Runoff 5K

This Portland 5K supports clean water education in the greater Portland and Saco areas. This year, rally a virtual team or run a 5K solo on the weekend of June 20-21. Post photos to Facebook and Instagram and tag @Urbanrunoff and #urbanrunoff5K. There’s also a Clean Water Bingo Card you can complete to win prizes. Entry fee is $12.

For more info:

Girls on the Run 5K

This year’s Girls on the Run 5K is open to everyone and registration is free (although donations to support Girls on the Run Maine are appreciated). Run a 5K on your own or with the people in your household on the weekend of May 30-31. You can even get bibs, which you can color, training plans, and cheer signs emailed to you. Because everyone deserves a cheer sign.

For more info:

Freelance writer Shannon Bryan lives in South Portland and is the founder of, where she writes about the coolest ways to be active and get outdoors in Maine.

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