Roots (and Dirt!) of a Trail Running Club

Written by Emily Higgins McDevitt for ATRA’s Spring 2017 Trail Times Newsletter.

“A community of fun-loving girls and boys who run amok in the woods and mountains of Midcoast Maine.”

Enjoy this personal story from Emily Higgins McDevitt, about the start of the Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine.

As with all good things in life, the creation of the trail running club, Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine can be likened to the title of a country song, “Bless the broken road” (that led me straight to you). Long before the club – now lovingly known throughout the state as TRoMM (the little “o” is key!) – became official, there were trails, and lots of people running them. The roots of the club date back to August, 2011, when a Facebook group was created by Trevor Mills, with the title “Thursday 6am Trail Runs.” As a recent father, he needed friends to help him get out the door and run when it was dark and cold and so began the club.

Within the same time frame, life-long road runner, Emily Higgins McDevitt, born in Northern Maine, but living in Tennessee with her husband and two young boys, was getting serious about the idea of moving back to Maine. Running, and a running community being critical to her happiness, she began the search for running friends on Facebook. Finding “Thursday 6am Trail Runs,” she joined the group and began learning about this trail running community, before ever stepping foot on a trail. In July, 2012, she moved home to Maine, and in the fall began running with the group on roads. It took two years before she ran on dirt, and included a major injury, and a new puppy along the way. By fall, 2014, Emily was smitten with off-road running.

The small-town community connections all pointed her in the direction of Trevor Mills. On November 13, 2014, Emily asked Trevor to meet for coffee at Rock City Café, to which he agreed. They met –she with a lined yellow legal pad, he with a wealth of knowledge of all aspects of the midcoast Maine trail running and biking community. During that meeting, Trevor assigned her the role of administrator for the Facebook group. But, as with all things in Maine, the creation of TRoMM would be slow and organic.

A weekend trail running group gathering was staged in late November, 2014, and the first outing had 12 runners! But, it snowed early and deep that year, and so, the second group gathering, one week later, had just one. So, it was back to the trail running club creation drawing board.

After a winter and spring of trail running discovery, primarily alone, but sometimes with her no-longer a puppy, Sage, Emily, being the talker that she is known to be, was more than ready to find a community of trail running friends. It was time to take action. Armed with clichés like, “If you build it they will come,” and “Strength in numbers,” during the spring of 2015, Emily met with John Anders, a mountain biker and the force behind the newly formed “Youth Explorer Series.” The series brought young kids to Ragged Mountain every Monday night for 8 weeks, June through August, from 6:00 to 7:30pm, to ride the trails.

Knowing that a parking lot full of people and cars – no matter if they were actually running or not – would look enticing and welcoming to a potential group trail runner, and with John’s blessing to piggyback on his now in its second-year activity, a Monday night group trail run was announced on the Facebook group.

Four runners attended the very first “Monday Night Dirt,” on June 15, 2015. By the end of the 8 weeks, the run was so well attended and loved, that it was declared a year-round, non-stop, no-matter-the-conditions weekly group trail run. During this same summer, a trail running series created by Baxter Outdoors, the adventure arm of Baxter Brewing Company (trail running club = beer drinking, entering the equation at some point, right?!), was discovered and Emily and her family participated. Much fun was had, trails were run, ideas were hatched, and, a new puppy entered the McDevitt family. In the fall of 2015, Emily also discovered and participated in the final in a series of three trail races held in Southern Maine by a well-known club, the Trail Monsters.

On January 12, 2016, Emily met Ian Parlin, one of the founders of the Trail Monsters, for coffee, lined yellow legal pad in hand. After a full year and a half of trail running fun, and with the now established and successful (and moved to a winter location) “Monday Night Dirt,” and with her stay-at-home-Mom’s long dormant MBA itching to get some use, it was time to get this club formalized! The rest of the winter was focused on creating a logo, a Facebook page to go along with the Facebook group, Instagram account, website, business cards, and most importantly, SWAG!!! And on March 16, 2016, “Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine,” with its lynx logo and colors of orange and brown, was unveiled with a banner, personalized beanies for the, at-that-time 10 core runners, and a goody bag full of business cards, in a McDevitt house full of excitement!

Fast forward to now, one year later, and Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine is a thriving and growing club. The club, and its merchandise, is open and available to all. If you want to be a Trail Runner of Midcoast Maine, then you ARE a Trail Runner of Midcoast Maine. With the mission of the group still firmly rooted in fun and community (with a little competition on the side!), the weekly group runs have grown to three: “Monday Night Dirt” at 6:00pm, “Wednesday Morning ROMP!” at 9:00am, and “Sunday-Trail-Runday” also at 9:00am. The acronym TRoMM, which came after the naming of the club, not before, has spawned verbs and adjectives such as “TRoMMing,” “TRoMMers,” “TRoMMatic,” and “TRoMMsgiving.” The lynx has been seen on runners backs, heads, cars, water bottles and even spray-painted on trees as a trail marker! The post-run “selfies” are plentiful and all photos can be enjoyed on the Instagram account and the official Facebook page and group, as well as on multiple trail runners own social media outlets. The group running has extended to grouping after running, and “Monday Night Dirt” is followed up with drinking and eating at a local favorite watering hole. TRoMMers have taken road trips, nights and weekends away, even flown to far-flung destinations to run trails with the lynx flag flown high. Sometimes together, sometimes solo, but always with the hashtags #trailrunnersofmidcoastmaine and #TRoMM.

Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine represented in multiple trail (and road, shhhhh!) events with “Team TRoMM” and others throughout the spring, summer, fall and winter of 2016, often placing high in the standings. Because while TRoMM is all about fun, the members can be known to be quite competitive and serious about running fast when the start gun goes off. Balancing this competitive nature, once crossing the finish line, a TRoMMer can often be found with a beer in hand, no matter the time of day, because the adage “we do it for the beer” is often exemplified by those wearing the lynx, orange and brown. As well, one may find a TRoMMer with a Shirley Temple in hand, because runners as young as 10 years old have been seen sporting the lynx and running as many as 5 miles on the trails. At the other end of the spectrum, in the Fall of 2016, a message was received on the website stating, “New at this and want to get better.” The next Monday night, a 66-year-old woman joined the run, and the post run revelry, and, she’s been with TRoMM ever since!

On October 1, 2016, Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine threw their hat in the ring of trail running event production by partnering with Baxter Outdoors to create the inaugural and soon-to-be-epic “Camden Snow Bowl Trail Fest.” Baxter Outdoors produced the race, and Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine, in collaboration with the Midcoast Maine chapter of the New England Mountain Biking Association (McNEMBA), produced the Fest. This inaugural event saw 120 (capped at this number for 2016), trail runners and bikers take to the hills and valleys of Ragged Mountain for an incredibly successful day of trail loving revelry. This now annual event is scheduled for September 30, 2017, and is expected to be bigger and better and open to more participants.

Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine is a club not only involved in running on the trails, but has expanded its mission to take care of and help create new trails. TRoMM sponsored a trail map created by McNEMBA, and has endorsed several local land trust organizations and their projects. Members of TRoMM serve or have served on various trail related committees such as the “Round the Mountain” trail committee which is currently raising funds to build a 9-mile trail around the base of Ragged Mountain, and the town of Camden’s “Parks and Recreation” and “Camden Outdoors” committees.

Looking into the future of TRoMM elicits another song title, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.” Ideas for additional club swag, club-sponsored trail activities, and even more group weekly runs are being discussed. The midcoast Maine region is at a tipping point for trail lovers of all varieties. Many organizations and groups are discovering each other and learning that we all want one thing, more organized trails upon which to play! Collaborations abound, and everyone is beginning to talk and work together. As such, Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine is a club poised to grow with this tide of excitement.

Each summer new outdoor enthusiasts discover midcoast Maine and its bevy of trails. The Camden town motto, “Where the Mountains meet the sea,” is one easily discovered and made reality when joining and running with the Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine. The “Monday Night Dirt” group run continues to be the club’s ambassador night, when all are welcome to participate, no runner left behind, all paces welcome. It is the night when an appointed TRoMMer will act as sweep, often times walking the entire route, talking all the while about trails and Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine. Because at the root of it all, is the love of trails, community and sharing. So what are you waiting for, join in the fun and check out these links!

Facebook Group
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Email: [email protected]