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.
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