2017-03-17 / Community

Revamped Presidential rolls into 25th year

A venerable presence on the road race scene, the Presidential is now a duathlon
By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

Kennebunk Police Chief Bob Mackenzie, left, and fellow Rotary member George Raftopoulos, right, meet with former president George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush last fall to discuss the Presidential Seaside Duathlon, which is scheduled to pass by Walker’s Point. (Courtesy photo) Kennebunk Police Chief Bob Mackenzie, left, and fellow Rotary member George Raftopoulos, right, meet with former president George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush last fall to discuss the Presidential Seaside Duathlon, which is scheduled to pass by Walker’s Point. (Courtesy photo) A southern Maine tradition is getting a makeover this spring just in time for its 25th anniversary, as the Kennebunk Rotary Club’s Presidential Road Race becomes the Presidential Seaside Duathlon.

“We decided to do something a little different. With all the 5Ks around now, you might as well put them all together and do a marathon,” Rotary member George Raftopoulos said on Monday, during a joint interview with club president Jim Black and fellow rotarian, Kennebunk Police Chief Bob MacKenzie.

“The number of 5Ks has just become overwhelming,” MacKenzie said. “On any given weekend there is one almost everywhere. So, we needed to do something different to (raise) the bar a little bit.”

According to Black, the race organizing committee at first considered evolving the long-standing road race into a triathlon event, but the logistics and insurance liability of a swim stage made that an untenable to pursue.

The decision was made to run remake the annual race as a duathlon, with two 5K runs that will bookend a 16-mile bike trek along the shore on both sides of the Kennebunk River and past the Bush family compound at Walker’s Point.

The two 5Ks will employ different routes. The first will be a loop from Sea Road Elementary School to Kennebunk Landing and back. The second 5K and final stage of the duathlon will take place on a groomed trail along the Mousam River.

Raftopoulos and MacKenzie met last fall with former president George W. Bush and former first lady Laura, to discuss the event.

‘He was really psyched and very encouraged by what we have planned,” Raftopoulos said. “As many people know, he’s an avid biker. He could not promise that he will participate — the family is usually not in town until May — but it certainly would be great if there was a surprise.”

With passage by Walker’s Point cleared, the only potential sticking point is construction on the Mathew Lanigan Bridge. However, Black says that if the new bridge is not up and running in time, a small detour to the bike route has already been worked out. If the detour is necessary, the bike ride bumps to 18 miles.

Although the new race is not a triathlon, it has been sanctioned by the USA Triathlon governing body. That means racers can earn points toward the USAT year-end rankings, standings that, Black says, can also be used to qualify for other, larger USAT events.

Moving the event from its former November date to April also makes it a good way for runners to gear up for the coming race season.

“While weather can still be a factor, as it sometimes was in November, having it right after the Boston Marathon as we head into spring is a good incentive, we think, for people who are always looking to get outdoors and get into shape,” Raftopoulos said. “We’re hoping that incentivizes people to get involved.”

Between the USAT sanction and the new format and date, a record number of people are registering for the event.

As of Monday, Black said, about 120 racers and relay teams had already signed up, some from as far away as New York. That’s on par with the 130 that ran the Rotary’s most recent November 5K.

“We are expecting enrollment to continue, with 300 or more before we are done,” Black said. “It’s been amazing. So, we can certainly use more sponsorships, as well as additional volunteers.

Event sponsors so far include Kennebunk Savings Bank (president level); Pack Maynard & Associates Real Estate and 540 Design Studio (vice president level); Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, NVest Financial Group, ROI Cubed, Spang Builders, Bangor Savings Bank, and Patriot Insurance Company (first lady level); and Red Apple Campground, Bradbury Market, and Yankee Marine (secret service level).

However, the more sponsors who come on, the more money the Rotary can funnel from the event into its primary purpose — providing post-secondary scholarships to students of Kennebunk High School.

“We have given more than half a million dollars over the past decade to local high school students, and we are expecting that as we transition away from the raffle we used to do, this duathlon will become our biggest annual fundraiser in coming years.

Black said the duathlon goal is to raise a gross amount of $30,000

“As you can imagine, there are a lot of costs that go into this race,” Raftopoulos said. “So, with our present sponsorships, we hope to net between $15,000 and $18,000.”

That would be enough to help nearly two dozen high school students with scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,000, based on merit and student interviews with club members.

Additional sponsorships, from the vice presidential level on down to local hotels and restaurants getting their names on the event map to be given to participants and spectators, will help defray costs and pump more money into the cause, Black said.

“We’d like to get into a mode where we generate a greater amount of income from our fundraisers to invest in the accelerating cost of higher education, as it continues to get out of reach for the average family,” Black said. “Our goal is to make a more meaningful contribution to the cost of continuing education.”

Public and personal education is one of the six pillar projects supported by all Rotarians, whose motto is “service above self,” Black says.

Among those are to promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water, protect mothers and children, support literacy, and grow local economies.

Rotary was founded in Chicago in 1905 and, at 90 years old, the Kennebunk chapter is one of the oldest in the nation.

The new duathlon, Black says, also passes Rotary’s four-way test, developed in 1932 as a guiding principle of the club. That test asks of all Rotary activities and events, “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? And, will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

“The Rotary as an organization has a solid foundation in the Kenebunk community and has been doing a lot of good for a lot of years,” Raftopoulos said. “This has been one of our biggest events that we do and in its new format we are looking for it to become even bigger and better.

“We wanted to make it special, and this change seemed the best option for doing that,” he said.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

Presidential Seaside Duathlon

What: The first Presidential Seaside Duathalon (also the 25th anniversary of the Presidential Road Race)

Who: Sponsored and staged by the Kennebunk Rotary Club, sanctioned by USA Triathlon.

When: April 29

Where: 5K run from Sea Road School, past Kennebunk Landing, back to Sea Road School; 16-mile bike ride from the school, along the shore in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, past Walker’s Point and back to Sea Road School; 5K run on a groomed trail along the Mousam River.

Why: Raise funds for post-secondary scholarships to students of Kennebunk High School

How: To register for the full event ($60), the first 5K stage only ($35), or as a relay team ($75), visit www.presidentialseasideduathlon.com.

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