Runners from across the country flocked to Cape Breton this weekend to participate in the 31st Cabot Trail Relay. The 24-hour long race, which has earned a reputation as a bucket-list event, wrapped up Sunday in Baddeck, N.S.

Close to 1,200 runners from 70 different teams crossed the finish line. Runners also included CTV Atlantic's own Ryan MacDonald and Amanda Debison.

Matt McNeil of Halifax was the first to finish, with a long line of athletes cheering him on, to mark the end of one of the largest and most popular running events in Eastern Canada.

“We knew it was going to be a tight race, so I knew we had a bit of a gap on that leg, but I wasn't sure by how much,” says McNeil. “We were all pretty excited I finished first.”

For the first time in several years, the race title was captured by a Maritime team. The Halifax Road Hammers finished with the best time, knocking out the Maine-iacs who have won the past seven years.

“I've been doing this for 11 years now, and it's pretty special,” says team organizer Ian MacIntyre. “It's only been a couple of times where the title has been taken away from the Maine. To have a guy like Matt, who is the best in Atlantic Canada to be on our team, in the group of guys that we have, is an incredible feeling.”

The 300-kilometre race takes runners through some of the most beautiful scenery on the island; it's also challenging with steep hills and terrain. The event also stands out for its party-like atmosphere and camaraderie.

“This race is so unique,” says relay chair Dave Parkinson. “The runners that come here, come here to win, but if another team beats them they'll shake their hand, pat them on the shoulder, and say, ‘we'll see you next year.’”

With a local team winning this year’s event, organizers hope it will encourage more Maritime flavor.

“I was talking to one of the runners who has been to running events all over the world, this is their first year here,” says Parkinson. “And they said it's absolutely unique amongst everything else. And to look around see the happy faces… it tells you why.”

Organizers also believe the race has brought in more than $8 million into the communities around the trail.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.