The Mount Desert Island Marathon, Half & Relay is North America’s premier destination road race. The award-winning course features miles of pristine terrain passing tranquil lakes, soaring mountains, sleepy Maine villages, and stunning seaside vistas —including Somes Sound, the only fjord on the Eastern Seaboard— all set against the awe-inspiring backdrop of Acadia National Park in peak fall foliage season. The Marathon and Team Relay start in the world-famous resort town of Bar Harbor, while the Half-Marathon starts in the opulent village of Northeast Harbor. All three races finish in the hardworking lobster fishing community of Southwest Harbor.
Hosted by Crow Athletics and held annually the weekend following Indigenous Peoples’ Day, this fall classic has earned national and international accolades. Once you #RunMDI, you’ll see why!
The 26.2-mile foot race begins in downtown Bar Harbor, where the first mile out is slightly downhill, which will allow runners to warm up before the first hill; a 150-foot climb from mile one to mile three. This incline will carry runners over the ridge between Champlain and Dorr Mountains. Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the immediate Atlantic Coast at 1,532 feet, will cast its shadow on the early miles of the course.
Route 3 then gives back a downhill sweep from miles three to six in the village of Otter Creek, where runners meet the sea and those famous ragged cliffs & headlands at the southeast tip of the Island. The small hill from mile six to seven will not be noticeable because runners will enjoy spectacular scenery along the Hunters Beach Trail.
There is a long, gradual downhill from mile seven to mile nine, then a series of rolling, curving vistas which overlook Seal Harbor, and the Cranberry Isles. At mile 10 rolling hills reveal unparalleled scenes, and the village of Northeast Harbor is visible across the ocean. Runners will enter Northeast Harbor, one of six villages along the course –quaint and attractive all– and reach the halfway mark just beyond the town. (Site of the Half-Marathon Start.)
The halfway point is also near the mouth of the only true fjord on the Atlantic Coast, lined with the pink granite that makes up most of the area, Somes Sound nearly bisects the entire Island. The second half of the race is literally on the edge of this remarkable topographical marvel.
The low point on the course, will come at mile 16 along the eastern shore of Somes Sound. This is followed by a slight rise to mile 17, and then a sharp incline from 17 to 18, heading up to the cliffs of the interior end of the fjord. Running hills makes for powerful camaraderie. Mile 19 is a giveback downhill, and then the gradual ascent from mile 20 to 25 begins in Somesville, the quintessential New England village.
Mile 25 will be the high point of the course, literally and figuratively, and affording great views. And it will be all downhill from there. The final 1.2 miles to the finish line in charming Southwest Harbor descends; yes, that last 2,000 meters will be all down. But what a sky-high feeling of accomplishment it will bring!
The 13.1-mile foot race starts at the half-way mark of the full marathon course in the picturesque village Northeast Harbor.
This was their first running of this race in 3 years due to COVID. Great venue and a beautiful course. So many times I would come to a portion of … MORE
This was their first running of this race in 3 years due to COVID. Great venue and a beautiful course. So many times I would come to a portion of the course and say one simple word…WOW. In all honesty this was a 5 star event up until the very end, while waiting for shuttles to take us back to the race start. We waited in line for close to 2 hours for pickup with no communication from race officials regarding the delays. With this being said, I would still highly recommend this race to anyone, especially those trying for their 50 in 50 and looking for a great race experience!
Beautiful views are what you get
I am completely happy with my performance given the hills and my fourth marathon in 22 days! Nice shirt and bag at bib pick up with a few vendors. Paid … MORE
I am completely happy with my performance given the hills and my fourth marathon in 22 days!
Nice shirt and bag at bib pick up with a few vendors. Paid parking everywhere in Bar Harbor. Nice medal with ribbon for finishers.
Stunning views through a lot of the course and then the dreaded highway towards end. Support of Gatorade and water every two-ish miles and maybe 2-3 spots for gels.
The first disappointment came with an over two hour wait for the bus ride back to start line to Bar Harbor. Gossip said it was even the same scenario with half marathoners earlier as well.
The after party later in the evening… nothing given. Just a menu with unique names for food and drink at your own cost 🤷🏼♀️
The views and challenging course and so close to Acadia National Park is what makes you run this race.
Fun and Scenic Destination Race
I truly enjoyed my experience at the MDI marathon this year! Check in was quick and easy on Saturday afternoon, and there were some really good deals from vendors at … MORE
I truly enjoyed my experience at the MDI marathon this year! Check in was quick and easy on Saturday afternoon, and there were some really good deals from vendors at the expo. The quarter zip pullover was perfect swag, something I’ll actually use instead of ending up in the drawer with all the other tech tees. The start was very accessible from anywhere in Bar Harbor, from my B&B it was a 5 minute walk. The start was energetic but laid back, spectators can stand on the sidewalk all the way up to the start line, and the self seeding seemed to work will even with ~700 runners. Started right on time and we were out of the city and in the woods (and going up the first of many hills) in no time. It was quite foggy for the first 45 mins to an hour, but once it cleared, you couldn’t ask for a better view. Every turn had beautiful fall colors interspersed with quaint villages and plentiful ocean views. The highlight of the course was Seargent drive coming out of Northeast Harbor; the road was completely closed off from traffic, had near complete tree cover, and gorgeous views across the sound. After mile 20 or so, the running got little more precarious since the road was much busier and I was starting to pass some of the half marathon runners who started at the halfway point 30 mins after us. Drivers were generally quite good about giving us room though, and there were more great views over the lake. The last rolling uphill from about mile 21-24.5 was pretty brutal, but after that it was downhill to 26 and then just a slight rise to the finish. I spent a LOT of time training hills for this race and that made all the difference. They weren’t as bad as I expected, but without the training I think my quads would have been shredded halfway through and I would have lost a lot of time in that final hill. The finish area was well equipped with a variety of food and drinks to recover. -1 for production for a few minor complaints. Very few bathrooms/porta potties on the route, I didn’t count exactly, but it wasn’t many and the ones near relay exchange zones were generally monopolized by the relay runners starting there. Additionally, the bus transportation back to the start had some staffing issues, so there was a very long line that moved very slowly. Overall, I’m leaving Maine very satisfied with my new PR and this awesome race!
Beautiful scenery and hilly
The scenery along the course was beautiful, but it was on mostly open roads with lots of traffic and much hillier than I had anticipated. There were not enough Porta … MORE
The scenery along the course was beautiful, but it was on mostly open roads with lots of traffic and much hillier than I had anticipated. There were not enough Porta potties at the start or along the course.
The medal is cute (a lobster claw), and we hot a pullover which ran small. After the race, there wasn’t much in the way of food (if that is your thing): ice cream, bagels, chips, and chocolate milk.
The volunteers were great, and those in the medical tent deserve special kudos.
After the race, we had to wait about 45 minutes for a bus back to the Village Green. I think one of the bus driver’s mom got sick, so it couldn’t be helped. The announcers enthusiasm deserved to be commended as well.
I would not do this race again, but I will definitely come back to Maine in October.
Wow. Lots of wow.
Known for the great scenery, this race never disappoints. Mount Desert Island is one of many islands along Maine's coast, but also home to Acadia National Park. Part of the … MORE
Known for the great scenery, this race never disappoints. Mount Desert Island is one of many islands along Maine’s coast, but also home to Acadia National Park. Part of the course goes through the park, but even the other sections, especially along the coast, will keep you wide-eyed and smiling at the beauty of the area. Plus, the fall colors will impress, the cheering from some very small towns along the way will lift your mood, and the enthusiastic aid station volunteers give your energy level a little boost. The course is fairly hilly, but the hills are small. Lots of them, but lots of downhill parts as well. Finish line food was excellent, the announcer does a great job of calling out first-time marathoners (you get a different bib), and the medal is uniquely Maine.
One drawback to the race is the shortage of port-a-potties on the course. Very few and far between. You can’t always hide behind a tree or bush.
This is one of few races that I recommend running at least once in your lifetime.
New England At Its Finest
I am a native New Englander who moved to Colorado a little over 2 years ago. Since I started my marathon journey this race has been at the top of … MORE
I am a native New Englander who moved to Colorado a little over 2 years ago. Since I started my marathon journey this race has been at the top of my bucket list. The time of year (peak foliage season), location (just outside a national park and along the ocean), and the fact that it would bring me back to my roots, what more could I have asked for of a race? Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
The hills are something to take seriously and to prepare yourself for. They aren’t joking when they say the last 6 miles are continuously uphill. However, the first half of the course provides you with downhills to reward you for your hard work running up. I only wish the rolling had carried through the second half of the course…regardless, it is very much worth the challenge! Just make sure you hill train and you’ll be fine.
You are surround by the most beautiful landscape the entire 26.2 miles, which makes up for the lack of spectators throughout. This is a smaller marathon, but there were at least 4 designated spectator points, which I definitely looked forward to for motivation. They placed aid stations every 2 miles or so, but not enough bathrooms along the course. The first one I saw was at mile 5, which just won’t cut it on a bad tummy day. They also gave out GU’s at 2 different points along the course, which I appreciated.
Along with the 6 miles of uphill I mentioned earlier, it’s important to note that you are constantly running along the left side of the road, and on a slant (some points more steep than others). This took a toll on my left leg/hip for sure by the end. You are told to run in the pull-off lane, which can vary in terms of width, making some points more difficult to pass than others, especially when these areas were not blocked off to oncoming traffic. The last 1 1/4 mile of the course is downhill. It feel soooooooo good!!!! Just beware that you will most likely be weaving in and out of spectators and oncoming traffic leaving the finish line area.
These minor complaints didn’t take away from the overall experience for me. I did not PR at this race, but I left everything I had on the course, which left me feeling very accomplished and fulfilled with my performance that day. I finally earned my own coveted lobster claw medal, which I have wanted for so long! Hands down my all time favorite! If you are a runner and have yet to experience New England in the fall, make this race a top priority. Not going to lie, it made me want to move back.
Also, highly recommend booking your Airbnb/Vrbo ASAP! The good ones close to the starting line fill up quickly. We booked ours in January and it was so worth it! Can’t beat a 0.3 mile walk to the starting line.
Marathon views probably more spectacular
Having heard that this race was one of the most scenic races in the country (as promoted by Runner's World), I knew this was a race I had to experience! … MORE
Having heard that this race was one of the most scenic races in the country (as promoted by Runner’s World), I knew this was a race I had to experience! I did the MDI YMCA race that went through Acadia National Park a few years ago and was ready to come back to the Bar Harbor area again. The first half of the half marathon course were beautiful and scenic with gently rolling hills, but as another race reviewer mentioned, the last 6 miles of this course was on a 2-lane highway with no cones blocking off one lane. You literally have to run on the shoulder and pray that cars see you and go slow enough not to hit you. It’s a very small field of runners so I never felt like I was sandwiched in or had problems passing people. When you near the finish line, you are dodging spectators walking the opposite direction on the road. There were harbor views, but I’m guessing the full marathon course had more spectacular scenery for the first half running through a lot of Acadia. But overall, the race production was very smooth and well organized. Half marathoners took a bus from Bar Harbor (the starting point for the full) and were bused to Northeast Harbor for their start. We had the luxury of keeping warm inside a community center so we weren’t outside standing around freezing for an hour. This year we were blessed with amazing weather, all sunshine with temps in the low 50’s at the start. The technical pullover that was given to all race participants ranks high in my all-time favorite race swag. And the lobster claw medals were quite unique! Would definitely recommend this race.
This was a very hilly race but I still managed a PR. The scenery was beautiful and made a great distraction from the hills. There were plenty of aid stations … MORE
This was a very hilly race but I still managed a PR. The scenery was beautiful and made a great distraction from the hills. There were plenty of aid stations and each mile was clearly marked, I will say that not every aid station had a bathroom, so plan accordingly if you typically have to go during your run. The race shirt may be one of my favorites, it’s a nice half zip pull over that I plan to wear all the time. Over all a great race I would recommend this to anyone looking for a beautiful run.
A beautiful, soul-challenging marathon
This was my first marathon, and you know how they say go big or go home? We went big on this one. Traveled out all the way from Kansas City … MORE
This was my first marathon, and you know how they say go big or go home? We went big on this one. Traveled out all the way from Kansas City to get a change of scenery after a humid summer of running and training. The timing of this was perfect as the trees were vibrant, the running weather was perfect, and the course that dips through Acadia is as beautiful as you’d expect. This is a smaller race (~600 marathoners + additional half-marathoners at a different start point) but I like that element. What I didn’t love was the elevation profile of around 1600 feet worth of climbs! It definitely added to my total time, but hey, the challenge of a marathon + the hills adds to the satisfaction. If I could make changes, it would come in the final 6 miles… It’s almost all uphill and beyond that, it’s just a big, open highway. No road closures, not even cones set up through parts of it. It was very challenging mentally to stay motivated in this stretch, and felt a bit amateur to not have a lane closed for it.
Overall, glad I did this beautiful run. It was a one-and-done-run for me, but I have the memories, photos, and the epic lobster claw medal to show for it.
I walked a lot! Hills!
Nicely run! Pretty course! Take the hills seriously. I knew there were hills but I really wasn’t prepared. I ended up walking a lot. Of course my photo on the … MORE
Nicely run! Pretty course! Take the hills seriously. I knew there were hills but I really wasn’t prepared. I ended up walking a lot. Of course my photo on the course in front of the iconic tree that represents the MDI, I was walking and texting my sister to complain😜😂.
The race was very hilly, but very scenic. It was well organized. I like the lobster shaped medal! I felt like there should have been more cones up along the … MORE
The race was very hilly, but very scenic. It was well organized. I like the lobster shaped medal! I felt like there should have been more cones up along the course. Some of the course didn’t have a coned lane for the runners. In some of those spots there wasn’t much of a shoulder and vehicles were in both lanes so I felt like we were being pushed off the road.
Stunningly Beautiful Coastal Marathon
I was looking forward to this marathon all year long after reading incredible reviews of how it is one of the most beautiful races on all of the east coast. … MORE
I was looking forward to this marathon all year long after reading incredible reviews of how it is one of the most beautiful races on all of the east coast. It did not disappoint!
The course itself runs from Bar Harbor, ME along the coast through Acadia National Park, finishing at Southwest Harbor..another coastal town on Mount Desert Island. I was blessed with incredible marathon running weather on race day (temps in the upper 30s / low 40s with clear skies) and the trees were at peak fall foliage. The view of the water, mountains, and trees was incredible.
Regarding elevation, the course is not an easy one. With a total elevation gain of around 1700 ft., there are several large, drawn out inclines that you will need to run. However each incline is followed by a nice decline…and the last two miles of the course are mostly downhill too. Be sure to include some hills in your training plan.
The race organization was top-notch. Constant updates were sent out via email and posted on the Run MDI website full of pre-race information along with a very detailed race packet PDF that was helpful not only to runners, but spectators as well. Packet pick up is a breeze in the town of Bar Harbor, which also features many things to do including shopping, boat / trolley tours, or visiting Acadia National Park.
Course support was very nice as well. There were few points on the course were there were not any spectators. The highlight of the course support to me was a large fishing boat of some type blowing its horn to cheer on and encourage the runners.
Due to proper training, amazing views, and great weather I was able to run my first-ever sub-4 hour marathon…so my experience was a fantastic one!
One final tip…I would register for this race early and book lodging ASAP. Bar Harbor has many bed and breakfasts with a few other hotels, and they fill up quick due to the tourists visiting to see the autumn colors of Maine. We were fortunate to stay in a hotel that was only a 10 minute walk from the starting line, and made our booking 9-10 months in advance.
Run Bah Hahbah! Have lobstah w/ buttah!
If this race isn't already on your bucket list, get it on there.....stat! I'd heard that MDI was scenic, but that doesn't do it justice. The course is spectacular; winding … MORE
If this race isn’t already on your bucket list, get it on there…..stat! I’d heard that MDI was scenic, but that doesn’t do it justice. The course is spectacular; winding through wee port towns, skirting Acadia National Park, along beautiful bays with vivid Autumn foliage. If this isn’t the single most beautiful marathon course, start to finish, that you’ve ever run, you just might be…”deaf, dumb and blind, boy, but sure play a mean pinball.” We were fortunate to have “Chamber of Commerce” weather for the 2018 edition; 38 degrees at the Start, full sun, blue skies, light breeze, 52 degrees at the Finish. Along the route, if you’re watching closely, you’ll see deer, wild turkeys, seals and lobster buoys bobbing in the small bays. You’ll hear mournful loons, the wind rushing through the birch trees and bell buoys ringing like church bells from the swell. At the Finish, you’ll receive the coveted “Crusher Claw” medal. Simple and very cool. For the “brewies” out there; be sure to check out Atlantic Brewing Company for a celebratory ale or three. Is this an epic marathon? “You bettah, you bettah, you bet!”
This has been the most beautiful race that I have run. It runs along the shouting for most of the race. It is a point to point race for the … MORE
This has been the most beautiful race that I have run. It runs along the shouting for most of the race. It is a point to point race for the marathon and they bus the half marathon runners to the halfway point of the marathon. The weather was a little cold to start with, but considering that it rained all day the day before , I was just happy that it wasn’t raining. It was sunn so it didn’t stay cold for too long. The only down side was that we were running on the shouder or an open traffic road. The shoulder had a pretty good size pitch to it and we were on the same side the whole was. Tough on the joints.
Iconic New England town
No better place to be in the fall than Bar Harbor, Maine. Beautiful course and beautiful town to visit. Don 't forget the popover.....the perfect carb load. MORE
No better place to be in the fall than Bar Harbor, Maine. Beautiful course and beautiful town to visit. Don ‘t forget the popover…..the perfect carb load.
Beautiful Maine Coastal Marathon
Make this event a family vacation. Enjoy Acadia National Park. Great tranquil and peaceful views on a moderately difficult rolling hills course. Absolutely loved the route. MORE
Make this event a family vacation. Enjoy Acadia National Park. Great tranquil and peaceful views on a moderately difficult rolling hills course. Absolutely loved the route.
This is definitely one of my top five favorite races of all time (50+ marathons). MDI is beautiful. The race is small and easy to navigate. The start was right … MORE
This is definitely one of my top five favorite races of all time (50+ marathons). MDI is beautiful. The race is small and easy to navigate. The start was right outside our hotel (Bar Harbor Villager – cheap rates!). I literally had 50 steps from hotel to start! My husband followed the spectator guide and was able to see me at several areas along the course. He enjoyed driving around the island and seeing all the quaint little villages and areas. The course is not difficult (hilly – but not difficult).
Take a few extra days and visit Acadia National Park.
The most scenic marathon I have ever run
What is there NOT to like about this Race? Absolutely beautiful course. Terrific finishers medal! Great post race swag, and did I mention the scenery! Stayed in southwest Harbor, at … MORE
What is there NOT to like about this Race? Absolutely beautiful course. Terrific finishers medal! Great post race swag, and did I mention the scenery! Stayed in southwest Harbor, at a rental house, Steps away from the marathon Finish line. Why am not the easiest race, logistically, to get to, it is well worth it.
We ran Big Sur and Bar Harbor... We still discuss which was the most scenic run. If it's not on your Bucket List.. it should be :) The only down … MORE
We ran Big Sur and Bar Harbor… We still discuss which was the most scenic run. If it’s not on your Bucket List.. it should be 🙂
The only down side would be that it is held at the end of their tourist season and the restaurants are getting ready to close, so some food choices were limited… but on the up side of that.. the shops had some good end of season sales!
MDI is one of those races that I always think of immediately when someone asks "what's your favorite marathon?" It's just a standout for so many reasons, some of which … MORE
MDI is one of those races that I always think of immediately when someone asks “what’s your favorite marathon?” It’s just a standout for so many reasons, some of which are below:
It’s in Maine. I’d never been before this race, but I hope to go back. Maine in October is beautiful. I took so many pictures of the changing leaves, it’s a little ridiculous. There’s also great food in Bar Harbor, and it’s a nice drive from the airport in Bangor.
Lots to do. Bar Harbor closes down the week after the marathon, for the most part, and you get there just after the majority of tourists have left, which is nice. I stayed in a B&B right around the corner from the start, so walking distance to everything (and when I say walking distance, it was like 50 feet from the green in the center of town). Good restaurants and things to walk around and see, little touristy things, nice paths, and great views. I recommend you do a Maine foodie tour if you want to sample the local fare. Lobster rolls, blueberry-everything, crab cakes…yum.
The start was casual, because it’s not a HUGE race. I was able to walk out of the B&B a few minutes beforehand which meant my own bathroom up until the gun went off!
The weather: lucked out last year. It was crisp, cold, and sunny with blue skies. This made for comfortable running and great views.
The course: Absolutely nothing like it. It is challenging, with pretty much hill after hill. By the end, my legs were pretty sore! But the views were rewarding. The leaves were changing, you run along gorgeous shoreline, and you pass the famous tree. I ran with my phone and snapped quick photos along the way just because it was so pretty. If you can train on hills, it will help. I ran Chicago the weekend prior (flat as a pancake) and my MDI time was 7 minutes faster, so don’t be scared.
Did I mention the views?
The medal: it’s a big golden lobster claw. What’s not to love about that?! I gave the SWAG four stars only because the marathon shirt was bright pink, not my favorite. But the medal made up for it!
My husband was with me and met me at the finish, and there is a drive back to the start/Bar Harbor. There were probably shuttles but I didn’t investigate since I had a ride. Easy drive back though.
Overall: I loved MDI. It’s so well organized and executed. Some of the best scenery and great small town support. Everyone was friendly and enthusiastic, and very excited about the marathon. There was great food and drink, a local vibe that was really fun, and of course, beautiful fall weather and foliage. Highly recommend MDI!! Oh, and if they’re auctioning/selling race banners, it’s a nice keepsake. I got one and it’s hanging on my wall.