It was a beautiful night to run. But sadly, it is not summer anymore.
Run Against Cancer Events (RACE) held its 6th and final Summer Series race last night at Artesani Park along the Charles River. As much as I am still trying to hang on to summer, the seasons are clearly changing. Summer evening races are often hot and humid, and still light out when the race ends. Last night was quite the opposite. Cool and comfortable, it was a perfect night to run. And unlike the previous races, runners were not only racing one another, but the daylight as well.
But that didn’t make it any less of a good time.
The course is kind of a figure 8, starting west, after about .25 miles turning back east, going over the Eliot Street Bridge, back to the Arsenal Street Bridge, up Soldier’s Field road to the finish line. As it runs along the Charles, it is not surprisingly a flat fast course. However, that does not at all take away from the fact that I ran a new 5K PR.
The RACE Summer Series consists of 6 races from May through September. Runners are encouraged to sign up for the series to save money on race entries. I think if you registered for all 6, the cost per race was less than $20, which is extremely cheap these days. The event also hosts an All Female race before the co-ed race, for women who prefer not to compete with men, or who just want to run earlier.
Participating in multiple races might also allow a runner to compete for the series title. Runners earn points based on their finishing time at each of the 6 races. The more races you run, the more points you can earn.
Joe O'Leary, of the Somerville Road Runners, was in the lead going into the race but was unable to race due to injury from crashing at the Duxbury Triathlon recently. Although he actually started the race, I think he ended up walking much of this one and finished 3rd on the season. This year’s champions for the 6-race series were Amanda Watters and Kieran Condon. For more race results click here.
RACE is a non-profit organization the produces events for cancer-related charitable organizations. The Summer Series benefits the Melanoma Foundation of New England. Although I had previously met RACE's founder, entrepreneur and do-gooder J. Alain Ferry, I didn’t know about RACE until the week after my uncle passed away after his fight with cancer when a post to run the Holiday 5K coincidentally popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. I was angry at cancer and the race felt like the right way for me to try to do something about it. From that point on, I have stayed involved, knowing this was my own way to fight this terrible disease.
Although the Summer Series is over, RACE holds plenty of other events throughout the year. Up next is the Run Wild 5K at the Stone Zoo on October 26 and the Turkey 5 in Wellesley on Thanksgiving morning.
While last night’s race may have sealed the deal on summer, I will admit I’m excited for all the great opportunities to run this fall.
*An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed Malinda Dublin as the Women's Series winner.
Earlier this summer I ran my first trail race. My less-than-always-graceful self has a hard enough time not rolling an ankle on pavement and I avoided doing any real trail running up until that point. But for some reason, I decided it was time to try something new and I ran the VERT Race Series Sasquatch, a 2.35 mile trail race at the DCR Middlesex Fells. The race was surprisingly fun and while I by no means said goodbye to the urban asphalt, the experience left me open to, at the very least, trying to again.
This weekend I ran my 2nd career trail race. Figuring I would stick to what I know (sort of), I registered for another trail race put on by VERT Race Series, the Big Bad Wolf. This 5 mile race runs through Wolf Hollow in Ipswich, MA, and raises money for their foundation.
To be honest, I was not sure at all what I was getting into. I didn’t spend much time looking into the course, and the only thing I really knew about it was that it was relatively flat. The race had a slightly odd start time, beginning at 12:00pm, though perhaps that was to help encourage the post-race party sponsored by several local craft breweries.
The race follows the Maplecroft Trail, consisting of mostly grass fields and dirt roads. The course was much less “trail-y” than the previous race I had run. However, evidently used by horses, the trails had a different kind of obstacle that kept me focused on where I might step next.
The trail grounds were pretty, wide open fields. The race course consisted of 2 large loops around 2 smaller fields. I crossed some parts of the course as many as 4 times, making it feel like I was running in circles (because I was). I could always see runners ahead of me, but because of the multiple loops, I was never really sure if I was ahead of them or not.
One thing I have not quite gotten used to with these trail races is the narrowness of the paths on which to run. While any road race can get a bit congested, especially in the beginning, runners seem to spread out as the course moves along. Perhaps it was my own fault for starting a bit further back than I should have, but I got stuck twice at bottlenecks within the first mile and stood waiting for my turn to pass through a narrow entry.
What the race may have lacked in terms of the course, it more than made up for with the post-race party. VERT Race Series is establishing a reputation for fun, social race events. The race had awards for fastest team times, encouraging runners to sign up with their friends.
There was also a costume contest, with prizes for the best wolf-related running costume. I’m not sure who won but I hope this guy got a prize.
Big Bad Wolf put another notch in my trail-running belt. Take my newbie opinion for what it’s worth, but I preferred the course at VERT Sasquatch in the Fells to the course at the Big Bad Wolf, though I would rather run a 5 miler instead of a race over in just 2.35 miles. Either way, I think both races were pretty well-suited for my inexperience and think both offer a nice introduction to trail running, for those, like me, a little nervous to run off the roads. And regardless of finishing first or last, I think everyone had a good time after they crossed the finish line.
“You did what this weekend?”
That was the response I received more than once, after describing the race I ran this weekend, the Reach the Beach Relay in New Hampshire. I have run Reach the Beach almost every year since 2008 (I was injured in 2009) and look forward to it each fall.
The race is 200 miles long, beginning at Cannon Mountain and finishing at Hampton Beach. The course is broken up into 36 “legs”, or segments. Runners participate as teams of 6-12, typically rotating through the team 3-6 times to cover the course. This year, teams completed the race in 20-36 hours. Here's my teammate, Dale, getting ready at the start.
Among runners, distance team relay races are have been gaining in popularity over the last several years. However, each year I run this race, I get questions from my family and friends who are not runners, and just don’t understand how it works. Here is my attempt to answer the questions I have been asked about this race.
How far did you run?
The race covered about 200 miles, so for an average team of 12 runners, each runner covered about 16 miles. However, distance ranged based on the combination of “legs” each person ran. Some teams chose to have only 6 runners, in which case the distance each runner covered was twice as far. This year, I ran 17.5 miles. I won’t lie; I strategically selected these particular legs because 1) I knew the distance was manageable for me to run hard and (hopefully) avoid injury and 2) the distance of each leg decreased from my 1st to 3rd run. I was fresh for my longest run and when I was most tired, I only had a 5K left.
What did you do when you were not running?
Each team had 1-2 vans that transported the runners and their gear along the course. After a runner started her leg, our van drove ahead along the course to the next Transition Area (TA), sometimes stopping along the course to provide the active runner with water, or to make sure the runner didn’t get lost. Although the course was well marked with signs, sometimes, especially at night, runners could miss a turn.
When all the runners in our van finished, we had 5-6 hours “off” to do whatever we liked, while runners from our second van ran their legs. Usually this included eating, sleeping and driving ahead to the next TA where we would meet the 2nd van.
So, you had to run at night?
Yes, everyone on our team had at least 1 night run. My second run started at 3:00am. Just staying awake for that was a challenge for me, not to mention being ready to run. Runners must all wear reflective vests, lights clipped to their front and back and have a headlamp or flashlight with them. As a local resident told me, we looked like running Christmas trees, decorated with lights. Even the vans got in the spirit.
When/where did you sleep?
Whenever I could, wherever I could. I got a couple hours of sleep while our 2nd van is running in the early morning hours. I slept in our 15-passenger van, sprawled out on one of the benches. However, others runners found a spot for their sleeping bag in the grass. At Bear Brook State Park, New Balance sponsored “Tent City”, tents set up for runners to grab a few hours of shut eye.
When/what did you eat?
For me, this has always been one of the biggest challenges of the race, as I have a bit of a fickle stomach when running. I tried to stick to small, plain snacks, with the exception of a real dinner, a stop at Flatbread Pizza in Conway, NH. I also packed lots of water. My first year running this race was a warm one, and during her third run, thirsty and sick of Gatorade, my teammate resorted to drinking the water from melted ice in our cooler because we ran out of bottled water. I learned my lesson quickly after that; there would be no drinking cooler water for me, thanks.
The timing of meals is important too though, and eating too much or too close to a run can be bad news. Which leads to the next question…
What did you do when you had to use the bathroom?
Not surprising to anyone who has ever run a road race, there are port-o-potties along the course at each TA. Unlike any road race, these port-o-potties are pretty much the only “bathrooms” the runners have access to for 20-36 hours. I’ll keep it clean here, but this can present its challenges. At least 1 TA that my van stopped at also offered use of the school locker rooms and for a small donation, use of their showers. It was possibly the best $5 I have spent in a while.
While I doubt my responses convinced any of my non-runner friends to sign up next year, I have plenty of runner friends who continue to come back year after year. The course is challenging, yet beautiful and unique, covering both mountains and the beach. The time spent with a team offers the chance to bond like nothing I have experienced since playing sports in college. The inside jokes are endless. For my team, like several others, we ran to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association, one of the race's official charity partners.
Regardless of finishing time or running experience, runners are proud, as individuals and of their team, when they finally reach the beach.
Today at 10:00am the Boston Athletic Association will open registration for the 2014 Boston Marathon to qualified runners. Beginning with the 2012 Boston Marathon the BAA implemented a policy of holding registration in waves, allowing those who are fastest to register first. The waves look like this:
- Today, those who exceeded the qualifying standard by 20 minutes or more are the first invited to register.
- If space remains by Wednesday, Sept 11 at 10:00 am, runners who have exceeded the qualifying standard by 10 minutes or more are invited to register.
- If the race has not filled up, on Friday, Sept 13 at 10:00am registration will open to anyone who beat their qualifying standard by 5 minutes or more.
- Registration closes Saturday, Sept 14 at 10:00am. If space remains, registration will open to all runners who have met their qualifying standard on Monday, September 16 and remain open until the race reaches capacity.
All runners must have met their qualifying time on or after September 22, 2012.
This “rolling” registration policy was implemented after registration for the 2011 Boston Marathon sold out in 8 hours, 3 minutes on October 18, 2010. As a result of the quick close, many of the fastest qualifiers were not able to register for the 2011 marathon. The “rolling" registration was implemented in 2011, for the 2012 Boston Marathon. In addition to changing the registration policy, the qualifying standards were also tightened. This change was implmented for the first time during the 2013 marathon registration, which took place in September 2012.
While it was announced on August 29 that the race would expand to 36,000 runners, increased interest in this year’s marathon has led to speculation about how quickly the race will sell out. Some say the race will close as early as Wednesday, September 11. Others believe the increased field size will help keep registration open on Monday, Sept 16.
Applications for many charity teams were allowed to launch today as well. While the charity teams may see in increase in non-qualified runners applying to fundraise and run the marathon for their cause, they may also see applications from qualified runners who could get closed out of registration.
Meeting the qualifying standards for the Boston Marathon is a goal many marathoners strive to achieve. For many, it is an incredibly proud moment to know they accomplished a major running goal. Yet, meeting the qualifying standard no longer guarantees entry to the race. I have a friend who ran exactly her qualifying time (0 second margin) and a friend who ran 4:58 seconds better than his qualifying time. They, like many others, will be waiting anxiously this week and hoping registration remains opens next Monday.
I was warned.
North Shore Road Race Guide informs readers that the Around Cape Ann 25K Road Race is the toughest in the country with 16 significant hills.
When I emailed a friend who had run this race in previous years, she said, “They mean it when they say 16 significant hills. The rest are rolling. Beautiful course. Be very aware there is a very short, very nasty hill in the last mile before you get back to the school.”
The rest are rolling? For those not quick with metric conversions, 25K is 15.56 miles. 16 significant hills plus the “insignificant” rolling hills in under 16 miles means...A LOT OF HILLS.
Despite the warning, I wanted to give it a try. I’m training for a half marathon in October, so I figured the hills and the added distance would be good for my training. I was less concerned about pace. I looked up some previous years’ results and when I saw the times from several friends averaged 30-40 per mile slower than their marathon paces, I decided it would be smart to set my goal pace conservatively.
The forecast for this weekend included chances of rain and high humidity every day. I tried to stay optimistic that the weather would not be too bad, but I began to lose faith as the windshield wipers turned the to high on the drive to Gloucester. I don’t mind a good run in the rain, but I hate starting a run in a downpour. Already nervous about the challenging course, as the rain picked up, I seriously began questioning my decision to run.
Lucky for me, my fantastic chauffeur, (and photographer and boyfriend) pulled up to the registration tent so I could run quickly to get my race packet. Despite the rain, the volunteers were friendly and smiling. The tech shirt I received with my bib seems to be of good quality and accurately sized, making it one I will happily wear to actually run in. And all for $31! Most 5K are more expensive than that these days.
We parked the car and as I grumbled about the rain, it slowly lightened up. By the time I walked over to the start, it wasn’t raining at all. It remained really humid however. In addition to the 25K, the Run the Goose 7K is a shorter option for runners. Over 300 runners ran the 7k. As of the time I am writing this, race results for the 25K had not been posted, but I would guess there were about 400-500 runners, making for a full, but not crowded starting line.
My friend’s recollection about the 25K was absolutely correct. The views along the cost in Rockport and Gloucester were beautiful, even when cloudy. I even enjoyed running through the downtowns, past shops and galleries, and through the neighborhoods, where neighbors sat out at the end of their yards to cheer and even pass out water. The course was hilly, and she hit the nail on the head with the heads up on that last hill.
The water stations along the course were frequent and well staffed. I stopped for water at every one. And while the course got a little tricky with turns and hills, I felt like there were volunteers in all the right places directing traffic and guiding runners. The race had a real local feel, as many runners cheered one another on while they passed each other, from the same running clubs or groups, generally from the North Shore.
The race was tough, no question about it. It lived up to its reputation and has earned my respect. And while the official race results have not yet been posted, according to my GPS watch, I should have come pretty close to meeting, if not surpassing my goal. And while I enjoyed beating myself up like this, in the way only runners may truly understand, I definitely did not have as much fun as this guy (video also embedded below).
I’m very proud and glad to have completed my first 25K at the Around Cape Ann 25K. And as a friend pointed out, since I noted it was my first time running this race, perhaps I already plan to return.