MILLINOCKET, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Hundreds of runners from across the country converged on the Katahdin region Saturday for the Millinocket Marathon.
Participants braved the cold for the intense 13.1-mile course starting and ending downtown.
"My dad used to work in the mill up here, so we just came back," said Stephanie Gagnon. "We wanted to help out the town."
Gagnon and her son made the trek from their home in Georgia in the hopes of giving back to the town where she was raised.
"Since we're from so far away, it seemed like a good thing to do and give him a chance to see where we grew up," she said.
Organizers said nearly a thousand people registered for the free Boston Marathon qualifying race.
"Maybe I threw the ball, but Millinocket damn sure caught it and ran with it,” organizer Gary Allen said.
He started the event last year in an attempt to boost business in a region that is still recovering from mill closures.
"I'm a Mainer and to help my neighbors is a very natural thing to do,” he said.
Downtown businesses were bustling as a result of Saturday's race, including Jennifer Murray’s shop.
"We've been looking forward to this for a long time,” Murray said.
Murray opened her doors to registration for runners and sold custom marathon t-shirts.
"I have never seen this store, we've been open for over a year, with so many people come through in such a short amount of time,” she said.
Murray said community members have welcomed the influx of people with open arms, holding craft fairs, pasta dinners and more. It is exactly what local leaders were hoping for.
"The spill over for this is incredible for the town," Town Council Chairman Michael Madore said. "We couldn't be happier."
Many locals are optimistic about what the event means for the future of their town and the region.
“I have no intention to leave," Carl Ambrose said. "It's still a great place and it will be again."
Ambrose’s daughter Carla Leino moved away but came back to visit for Saturday's event.
“Everywhere you go people are eager and hopeful that the person that comes here to visit, even for the first time, is going to come back for the second, third, fourth time, and each time, bring back to see what an awesome area this is and people here are ready,” Leino said.
Bringing runners across the finish line but bringing a new start to one of Maine's treasures.
"I'm pleased that this little effort is maybe giving this community to see brighter days ahead,” Allen said.
WATCH: Leah Frost was the first female finisher of the full marathon. NEWS CENTER spoke to her just after she crossed the finish line.