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DIRIGO STORIES: Running through grief, Kennebunk man copes using road races

Allyn Genest, 67, set a goal to run 67 road races this year. By the end of November, he will have run in 80 (Courtesy: Allyn Genest).

PORTLAND (WGME) – A 67-year-old Kennebunk man who started running on a whim nearly 10 years ago is set to reach a milestone this month.

By the end of November, Allyn Genest will have run in 80 road races this year.

“I made a goal of 67, because I’m 67, but before I knew it, I was already there!” Genest said.

He’s run in 78 races so far this year. The Portland Thanksgiving Day 4-Miler will make 79.

“I didn’t like running at all. I didn’t like exercise,” Genest said. “Something hit me inside that I had to do something, I had to change my life around.”

Genest started running in 2008, when he wanted to live a more active lifestyle. He made big changes getting into shape, and doing a few races in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, however, his life would change again.

Genest's wife, Penny, died suddenly of a heart attack on February 27, 2011.

“I never knew what hit me, ya know?"

It hit him hard. So to cope, he hit the pavement.

“I had to do something to keep my mind occupied.”

Genest ran himself ragged, signing up for 40 races that year.

“In 22 days, I did four half marathons, and two 5Ks”

The next year, at 62-years-old, he ran 62 races.

“I decided to run my age!”

Genest became somewhat of a celebrity – the guy with a smile, snapping selfies at nearly every road race in Maine.

“I love my running friends, they are my everything,” said Genest. “They make me so happy. they changed my life.”

Over the years, Genest has run in 300 races, and made countless friends.

“I feel so happy. I feel energy,” he said. “I feel so much energy on the weekends I have a hard time sleeping.”

His happiness still comes with a little sadness. Genest still thinks of Penny when he runs. But he also thinks about all the friends he’s made along the way, and wouldn’t have, if he hadn’t started running on a whim.

“When I started out, it was just a little rose, and now it's like I got a whole flower garden of people.”

Genest reached his goal of 67 races this year on September 24, 2017. It was the "Hugs from Hayley 5K" in Saco. The organizers gave him a plaque, medal, and gift certificate to mark his achievement.

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