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home > races/results > usa: massachusetts > countdown to the 21st annual baystate marathon and half marathon—qualify with quality

Countdown to the 21st Annual Baystate Marathon and Half Marathon—Qualify with Quality
The BayState Marathon and The Lowell Sun Half Marathon are really unique races along one of the most scenic areas of New England--the Merrimack Valley. The BayState Marathon invites you to your best chance to Qualify for Boston!

Countdown to the 21st Annual Baystate Marathon and Half Marathon—Qualify with Quality


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Active Running

By Skip Cleaver
Posted Sunday, 12 July, 2009

The Baystate Marathon and Sun Half Marathon are tremendously well organized and offer a terrific racing experience for all. Baystate is among the best or most likely marathons in the USA to give runners a great shot at qualifying for Boston. How great? They had a whopping 38% of the field qualify in 2008, and the numbers have been consistently high since the humble beginnings of the event in 1989. And the BayState Marathon is the USATF New England Marathon Championship. These events are ideal for first time marathoners or half marathoners and experienced distance runners alike. Both events run the morning of Sunday, October 18. This is a small city marathon compared to the majors, but you better believe both are top notch marathon and half marathon events, an absolute must for runners of all abilities.

This will be the second consecutive year that the BayState Marathon will be the concluding race of the highly respected USATF-New England Grand Prix, one of the best such circuits in the nation. Of all 57 USATF Associations, only New England has such a competitive and high quality grand prix—seven races in all from spring through fall. The BayState Marathon offers a total of $13,400 in prize money as a USATF Grand Prix event.

Although it is the grand prix finale, BayState remains focused on their primary constituency, runners trying to qualify for Boston from all over the region and the nation.

The wider running world is discovering what New Englanders have known for years: BayState gives you the best chance at qualifying for Boston. It was founded for that purpose, and has lived up to the concept in 20 previous runs. That is why both the marathon and half marathon will sell out—it is only a question of when. That is not hype. They have expanded the field limits to 2,000 for the marathon and 1,500 for the half; this is up from 1,500 and 1,000 respectively. However, since the word has spread nationally on the high qualification percentage of this course, registration is way ahead of last year—and last year sold out early.

To register please go to

No matter where they come from, all marathoners and half marathoners will find a welcoming race organization and community, an outstanding committee as well as energetic and supportive volunteers. All the details will be covered--runners just want to run, so there is no hoopla and no hassle as compared to the major marathons. Yet everything is provided to make the marathon experience memorable, whether this is someone’s first or 100th. This is, after all, the Merrimack Valley, which is recognized nationally as THE hotbed of running.

Born as a Quality and Qualification Race
The mission from day one—qualify for the B.A.A. Boston Marathon. Race founders Don Allison and Dave Camire teamed up in 1989 and determined to set up a marathon to help runners qualify for Boston. There were fewer marathons anywhere in those days, including and especially in New England. Cape Cod in the fall was one of the few. They decided to run the new marathon in February, 1990 in time to make qualifiers eligible for Boston the following April. Allison tried several possible courses in the greater Boston area, including Cambridge, but could not find anything suitable. Camire suggested the Lowell/Tyngsboro venue that had been used for the Great Oktoberfest Marathon in 1981. (The Great Oktoberfest Marathon was only run one year, sponsored by BayBank. Larry Olsen won in 2:17:43, and first prize was a vacation to Bermuda.)

This was the origin of the double loop along the Merrimack, one of the flattest, fastest courses anywhere. Although the start and finish have been relocated several times, the essential course remains the same. The triumphant finish is now in LeLacheur Park, home of the New York-Penn League Red Sox Single A affiliate, the Lowell Spinners. One more interesting note about the first year of the Baystate Marathon: it was run twice in 1990. That is why this is the 21st running for those who may be counting. The first one was in February, and shortly thereafter the sponsors wanted to move it to mid October. Race two was in mid October of 1989, and that has been the time frame ever since. The Sun Half Marathon was added in 1994.

Get Ready
Both races run on Sunday, October 18, beginning at 8:00 a.m. The Event Expo as well as registration and check-in, bib and chip pickup will be at the Lowell High School, located at 50 Father Morissette Boulevard, Lowell, Massachusetts, 01852. Early check-in and pickup, to avoid race-day lines, will be available the week prior to the race. From Tuesday, October 13 to Friday, October 16 (10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) you will be able to get bib, chip, and T-shirt at Marx Running and Fitness Center, 423C Great Road, Acton, MA 01720.

The Expo will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 17, and is free to all. Enjoy a wide variety of vendors suppliers with booths, demos, and speakers (check the Website for more specifics on the Expo). Check everything out and make preparations before or after picking up your bib and chip and long sleeve T-shirt (all pre-registered runners get a shirt). If you are unable to do so on Saturday, pick up will also be available at Lowell High on race morning from 6:00 to 7:30 a.m.

There will be a traditional pasta dinner, also at Lowell High, during the last two hours of the Expo on Saturday, October 17 (4:00 to 6:00 p.m.). It is free to all registered runners and guests are welcome for only $10.00 each. What a deal!

Please see details regarding accommodations on the Race Website. There will be shuttles to the start from two of these hotels.

Be a Part of the Tradition—Set Your Goal, Get Your PR and Qualify
These are famously flat and fast courses. Both start at 8:00 a.m. near Boarding House Park, near the intersection of French and John Streets (where the mill girls used to live in the heyday of Lowell’s textile mills, among the largest and most productive in the world at the time). Both courses are basically double loops and both cross the mighty Merrimack four times—the half marathon on two bridges and the marathon on three. The half marathon follows portions of the marathon course. And both finish in the same location, inside beautiful LeLacheur Park.

LeLacheur Park is a 5,000-seat stadium built in 1998. The address, if you are mapping, is 450 Aiken Street, Lowell, 01854. Runners may see themselves finish on the center field jumbo screen.

The marathon follows the Merrimack River through various neighborhoods and into North Chelmsford and Tyngsboro. It crosses the Tyngsboro Bridge and runs down the northeast side of the river along Pawtucket Boulevard, turning south to again cross the river on the Rourke Bridge at mile 13—the half way mark is just after runners come off the bridge to begin their second loop. The course crosses the Tyngsboro Bridge a second time and follows Pawtucket Boulevard again but this time passes the Rourke Bridge heading east. It crosses the river a fourth time on the Aiken Street Bridge, and rounds LeLacheur Park to enter on the third base side. Runners proceed along the outfield fence and then triumphantly finish heading down the foul line to the first base area. (There are excellent detailed descriptions of both courses on the Race Website.)

All finishers of both races will receive a medal, and awards go to the top three overall female and male winners in each race, as well as the top three female and male winners in the following age groups: 19 and under; 20-29; 30-39; 40-49; 50-59; 60-69; and 70+. Cash prizes for teams and individuals will be awarded in the marathon only; it is the USATF New England Championship.

There are bonuses for marathon event records, Dave Dunham holds the men’s mark at 2:21:36 and Mary Ellen Kelly’s 2:45:53 is the time to beat for women.

Post race amenities include showers available to all runners right near the finish. And after that refreshing shower go to the Brewery Exchange Restaurant a few blocks away for a terrific celebration of your marathon or half marathon achievement.

Run This One
There will be no big city hoopla or hassle, just the pure joy of running your best ever marathon or half marathon. Be a part of the fastest field in any New England marathon. Be a part of a 20-year tradition of quality and qualification in the Merrimack Valley. Start training and get ready. You can qualify. You can set a PR. You can be a part of the New England Marathon Championship. It is only 32 miles from the BayState Marathon finish line to the B.A.A. Boston Marathon finish line. BayState is the closest marathon to Boston in both distance and opportunity. Run your best along the historic Merrimack where hard work and grit are as much of the heritage as fast running.

For additional details please go to



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