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home > races/results > usa: massachusetts > qualify for boston at baystate!

Qualify for Boston at BayState!
The numbers prove that the BayState Marathon is your highest probability race to get a qualifying time for Boston.

Qualify for Boston at BayState!

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By Christopher Russell
Posted Monday, 9 July, 2007

Baystate Marathon 2007 Does it really make a difference what marathon you run to qualify for Boston? Absolutely! The verdict is in and the numbers support what we local runners have known for years. If you want to qualify for the Boston Marathon your best chance in New England is the BayState Marathon, Lowell, MA, October 14th 2007.

The BayState Marathon got some big-time national credibility as a Boston qualifier recently. Did you see it? In the April '07 issue of Runner's world dedicated to Boston they surveyed a large group of Boston Marathon entries and guess what? Of the runners surveyed this little local loop marathon along the Merrimack River, out of all the marathons in the world, was 9th in producing the most qualified runners.

This was my first marathon and I loved it. Very fast course. Not a ton of spectators but those on the course were awesome. This is also a great race for family and friends to watch with its double-loop. … Will definitely run again. -
R.K. Boston

One third of all BayState entries in 2006 qualified to run Boston. I've qualified there twice! As a matter of fact I've run my 2nd and 3rd best times while qualifying easily at BayState.

Furthermore if you compare 2006 finishers from BayState with 4 other New England Fall marathons you'll find that BayState leads the pack for % of qualifier times. 32% of BayState finishers in 2006 qualified for Boston. The closest other marathon around here sent 22% of their finishers to Hopkinton. If you want to run those other New England marathons for the great views, go ahead, but qualify at BayState first!

What's your best bet to post a PR in the fall? The BayState Marathon. This gem of a local marathon is finally getting the recognition it deserves. It's the perfect low-pressure course for you marathoners looking to run your best times. If you're not up for a marathon you can run the ½ marathon on the same fast course for a PR and bragging rights.

Why is BayState such a high probability marathon? It's not just the fast course. There are a number of reasons. The BayState has always been known among locals as the race to gain a qualifying time. Now the secret is out - and you can come too.

BayState was originally established as a race for local clubs to gain qualifying times. BayState knows its role in the heart and minds of New England runners and works to keep its clientele happy. Hey, sometimes it's ok to just run a perfect qualifying race without the drama of hitting the wall or beating the hills. BayState keeps it simple and allows you to take home the time you need. BayState is perfect for first-timers, veterans and mid-packers looking to get their ticket punched for Boston.

Why is BayState such a great race to raise your chances of a slot in Hopkinton?

  • The course
  • Where the race falls on the calendar
  • The size and makeup of the pack
  • The weather
  • The organization
  • The locale
All of this is geared to get you out to Hopkinton. All you have to do is make the effort.

The Fast Course!
Talk to anyone who has run BayState and they will tell you the course is "fast". They may also say that it is flat, but that is not the only thing that makes it fast. There are actually a couple of small hills in the course but nothing to knock you off your pace. It is not flat like the parking-lot-marathon versions you get in some big cities.

I've been running this race for years, on and off, for the desire to run a local, flat course. Management has made great strides (no pun) over the last several years in making this a well organized and fun run. -

More appropriately they will tell you that BayState is "relatively flat". What a New Englander means by 'flat' is that there are no ½ mile 10% grade up hills late in the race that will make you want to cough up vital organs and give up running.

The BayState course does have some nice small undulations. This prevents the course from being "too flat" - it allows you to stretch out a bit and not get horribly cramped by a mechanical flat rut.

The first couple miles actually have an upward slant to them. This is good for two reasons. First, a little uphill in the beginning helps you meter your pace and prevents "out-too-fast" syndrome and second, you get it back in the last miles of the race when you need a little help from gravity.

Another thing that makes this course fast is the surface. No cement. No pot-holes. Just good old New England hot top roads. For those of us who grew up with it, we love the combination of soft impact and springy grip.

The majority of the course is tree covered. This will keep you out of the sun and wind and allow you to tactically run your race without having to compete with the elements. Any October day in New England typically will have some wind. The covered loop course allows you to manage any headwind tactically.

One particular feature of this course that I really like and mostly goes unheralded is the excellent landmarks and waypoints. When you are running a tactical marathon with a time goal you need intermediate goals and way points to keep you on track. Among these waypoints are the two loops themselves, four bridge crossings, the river, U-Lowell boat house, the Vocational school, North Chelmsford Center, the golf course and that white fence at the horse farm. It's a double loop so you get to see many of the features twice.

Psychologically these features are very powerful when you're running for a time. You always have an intermediate waypoint in the next couple miles to set your sites on and a great sense of accomplishment when you pass it. This way you can chunk the race up into a number of small victories that will lead you to the finish.

A well organized race that's very flat. There were plentiful water/Gatorade stations with cheering high school kids. Police were out in force to control traffic and there was medical support on bikes keeping an eye on all the runners. The finish line had plenty of staff and did a great job assisting the runners. The organizers, police and medical/support staff did a fantastic job. Thank you.
R.T. Swampscott, MA

The finish helps make the course fast. After the second loop the course heads down river. This is where you get back the elevation that you climbed in the first couple miles. You can stretch out and let the slight down hill pull you to the stadium.

The start is on a broad thoroughfare in the city of Lowell, MA. You will get out and on to your pace quickly. The starting line is a couple blocks away from the Tsongas Arena where all the race day activities are begun. The Tsongas arena is a sports complex and home of the Lowell Lock Monsters, recently purchased by the New Jersey Devils and now known as the Lowell Devils ice hockey team.

Why do you care? Because, a sports arena is designed to process the 'needs' of tens of thousands of beer drinking hockey fans. Which is fairly similar to the 'needs' of a couple thousand jittery pre-race marathon runners. Lots of room. Lots of clean efficient facilities.

The finish is triumphant inside LeLacheur Park, the home of the Red Sox affiliate Lowell Spinners. After crossing the river one last time, you run around the park, into the outfield on the 3rd base side, around the outfield and down the 1st base line to finish at home plate. It makes for a great finishing photo.

This course is entirely accessible. If you want to qualify, you'll want to pre-run the course. On any given weekend day this course is wide open with plenty of places to park. With the double loop you can park in such a way as to break the course up into various training distances. This will give you confidence and power when you take on the course for real in the race.

Perfect fit on the Calendar!
The timing is perfect. Why? By falling on the 2nd week of October, a successful BayState Marathon gives you 2 qualifications for Boston. That's right; BayState gives you 2 years of valid qualification for Boston. Ironically, if you bust your butt in April and qualify at Boston, your qualification is only good for 18 months - so you get one year out of anything before October.

An October Marathon gives you the best rhythm. If you, like many of us, mount a couple of marathon training campaigns a year, i.e. one in the spring to gear up for Boston or some other spring fling and one in the fall to qualify or just to have a goal. I ran this marathon as my first race and found it to be absolutely amazing. I loved the route, the spectators were amazing, and it was very well organized. The water stations were full of cheering people helping you continue on. I highly recommend this for everyone. I will defiantly be there next year! -
M.B. New Hampshire

Those of us who have it figured out realize that training for an October BayState means that we can relax for a couple months after Boston, then start our program in July to peak just at the right time. That's 12-14 weeks of training - perfect.

Then you can run for fun through Thanksgiving and Christmas and start gearing up for Boston while your New Year's hangover is waning. It's got a beautiful social/physical rhythm to it.

You'll be in Good Company!
The size and makeup of the BayState Marathon is beneficial for qualification. The race is not too big and not too small. You don't have to worry about being overwhelmed by crowds of runners like in a big city race. I think that makes a difference in your ability to execute on your plan during the race.

First timers at the big city marathons get stressed out early because they get caught in the gridlock. When you look up and see that the first mile took you 15 minutes you might freak out and it screws up your pacing. It injects a bad stress chemical cocktail into your already over-amped system. At BayState you won't be overwhelmed and will be able to concentrate your energy on executing your race plan.

First timers may have the opposite problem at a small race where there aren't enough people. It's debilitating in the high miles where you need some company if you are all alone. It's hard to pace when there is no one there to compare against and commiserate with. At BayState you will fall into natural pace groups because everyone around you will have the same goal.

That's right, you don't need to follow someone in a bunny suit or a guy dragging a balloon at BayState. You'll always be able to find a pace group running the target pace you are looking for. When you get out a couple miles, turn to the folks next to you and ask "What's your target?" and you'll find every qualifying pace group you need. A large section of the crowd is running for a qualification.

You'll be able to run with 3-6 other midpacker's just like you who are targeting the exact same qualifying time. You'll make new friends and learn all about their running stories. You'll even get that great drama between miles 17 and 22 when you find out who's going to stay on pace and who isn't. The size and makeup of the race are well suited for a qualifying run.

The Weather is Nice in October!
The weather is perfect for a qualifier. The race starts at 8:30 and there will be a chill in the air. It's Fall in New England. That means cool mornings and sunny days. Race temperatures will typically be in the mid-50's Fahrenheit. This is cool enough to keep you from overheating but not so cold as to be uncomfortable. Shorts weather for sure. Good weather for racing.

Most runners will bring a disposable warm shirt. I've got a warm shirt story for you. I worked a water stop one year somewhere in the first 5 miles of the course. We collected a big trash bag full of castoff shirts. I took them home and washed them. I saved a couple for my own disposable collection. The following year I was making a qualification attempt at BayState. At the start, leaving the arena, it was chilly, and I had one of those reused disposable sweatshirts on. I passed a young lady who was shivering in a singlet and shorts. I gave her the re-used disposable sweatshirt. How's that for recycling and Karma?

BayState has grown into a very well organized race.

Over the past few years BayState has made a strong effort to become better organized and runner friendly. The course was changed to have the start at Tsongas and Finish at LaLacheur. This ties in the City of Lowell more intimately and allows for better facilities at the start and finish.

Disregard the negative reviews from years ago. Bay State is now a very well organized event…The Tsongas Center is a great venue for pre-race activities, and finishing at the baseball park is a nice touch. Water stops were numerous and well stocked, and mile markers seemed to be spot on. Major kudos to the director, staff, and volunteers. … The race's big selling point is 100% correct: it's the fastest course you're likely to find. Would definitely run again. -
R.Z. Concord

The organizers have fine tuned the on-course support to maximize runner experience. Water/Gatorade stops are crewed by local cross country teams and there is a runner voted competition for which team has the best stop. The course marshalling and volunteers are professional and well trained. The course is marked and isolated so you don't have to worry about getting run over in your qualification try.

BayState has a number of quality sponsors including Reebok. This is good news for you because deep sponsor pockets are always a good thing for the runners.

Runners from all over the country come to BayState to qualify. If you do all that training you want to give yourself the best shot at making your time.

Lowell Massachusetts
This one time bustling mill town has made great progress over the past 25 years. Lowell has turned itself into a thriving, progressive, multiethnic metro. Check Lowell out. There's a lot going on. The city has successfully preserved its past as a textile powerhouse with parks and history on display. At the same time Lowell set out into the future with a plenty of new infrastructure and a vibrant immigrant community.

I've run this race previously in 2000 … I have to say for 2006, this was a hit. The perfect weather brought out a lot of same-day half-marathon entries yet there were no capacity issues at any of the water stops or post-race services. The personal, one-on-one support by a volunteer at the end of the marathon for me was great. (He got my water and medal, put a Mylar wrap around me, took off my chip, and asked me about how I thought I did. To whoever you were, thanks!) For back-of-the-pack runners like me, it is always nice to still have the food, support, and services still out and available. The chicken soup and rolls really hit the spot. I will run this again and look forward to migrating to the middle of the pack! -
B.S. Boston

Lowell is easy to get to, a quick 30 miles north of Boston. Just follow the Lowell Connector from Route 3 or 495. Take the Connector to the end and follow the signs for Tsongas Arena. There is a parking garage at the arena for free race parking. If you need any more advice, drop me a note or contact the race at There is a sponsored training program that you can join.

There is a pre-race Expo and number pick up with a pasta dinner Saturday, Oct. 13th at the Lowell High School cafeteria. You can also pick up your number this year at Marx Running at its new location in Acton on 2A.

The event has chip timing so you won't have to worry about your qualifying effort being missed.

Make your qualifying time at the BayState Marathon this year!
Start training today and set your sights on October 14th, Lowell, Massachusetts - the BayState Marathon. Maybe you are one of those folks who is naturally fast and doesn't need any help to qualify…but if your not, don't gamble with your training, go to where the odds are in your favor - BayState!

Come run the fastest marathon course in the Fall and get what you deserve. Come learn what locals have known for years. Come and qualify at the BayState Marathon!



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