The Boston Prep 16 Miler--Put This Cult Classic on Your Must-do List
You know it. You love it. You have to sign up for the Boston Prep 16-Miler in Derry, N.H., for Sunday, January 25, 2009. This is a must-run race if you’re looking to kick start your training for the Boston Marathon or another spring marathon. Get in a long run with a few hundred other folks or just be a part of a group looking for some serious bragging rights.
Posted Sunday, 2 November, 2008
Runners seem to derive pleasure from the discomfort of pushing themselves in sometimes adverse conditions. The Boston Prep 16 Miler has been exploiting this fact for the past 14 years. And for that, I say, “Thank you!” The end of January in New Hampshire is, well, fairly unpredictable weather-wise. Despite this, much like the postal service – through snow or rain or heat or ice – hundreds of runners gather in Derry to test their skills on this “moderately challenging” 16-mile course. And no matter the conditions, you can count on Dave Breeden, race director, and the Greater Derry Track Club, to put on an extremely well organized race that’s nearly become a cult classic for the New England running community.
Run it once and you’ll come back. In fact, 60% of the field is returning runners who sign up for Boston Prep year after year, notes Breeden. “You also have the hardcore 30% who do it every year as a badge of courage. They want to be able to check it off of their list of races that they must do. In that respect, it’s become kind of a cult race,” Breeden adds.
On a personal note, I belong to that “badge of courage” category. I had heard from friends that this was a great race on a hilly course. So a few years ago, I finally signed up—and I’ve been going back for more ever since. That year, I ran the race to bump up my winter training. The next year, it marked the final race of the season for me until spring. No matter what the Boston Prep 16 Miler means to you, it’s sure to meet all of your expectations.
The Derry Village Elementary School on Route 28 is runner central on race day. Gather here before the start to register (if race-day registration is still available), pick up your number and race packet, warm your extremities, stretch, compare this year’s weather to previous years’, and plan your race strategy. Note: If the weather’s warmer, you can blame that for a slower race, if you want. Also, if the weather’s colder, you can blame that for a slower race, if you want. Now you know my secret race strategies.
Course Advice: Ease In, Then Hunker Down
At 10:00 a.m., the starting gun sounds and runners take off from Humphrey Road, which is just a warm-up jog away from the school. At the end of Humphrey Road, turn right onto Island Pond Rd., and then a quick left onto Stark Road. If you haven’t run this race before, you may be questioning the “moderately challenging” label at this point. But resist the urge to go out too fast on these flat to downhill roads. It’s a long race with several ups and downs in there. My advice -- ease into the race and enjoy the beautiful country roads flanked with trees and fields. You’re going to have to hunker down and climb later on.
Mile 4.5 brings runners onto Kilrea Road for a stroll through a cozy Derry neighborhood. Enjoy the scenery and some downhill for the next few miles on Kilrea and Gulf Roads. Miles 7-9 on Bartlett and Island Pond Roads give runners two comfortable miles of flat running. But just when you start questioning that “moderately challenging” label again, a left turn onto short, steep Drew Hill Road at 9.1 miles will get your heart pumping.
After mile 10, runners turn onto aptly named Warner Hill Road. It’s at this point that the race really lives up to its label. It’s also at this point, I suspect, that runners drink the proverbial Kool-Aid that has kept the Boston Prep cult persona alive and kicking for so many years. The course tames after that – entering the village of East Derry just after the 14-mile mark for views of colonial homes, a general store, a library and a cemetery.
Once you turn back onto Humphrey Road, you can almost see the finish. But no “moderately challenging” race would be complete without ending on an uphill. After pushing it up Humphrey Road, turn right onto Route 28 for another steep surge past cheering crowds. One final right turn at the crest of the hill brings you through the chute at the Derry Village School.
The field is limited to 800 runners and fills up every year. “The race is usually full by the first week of January,” notes Breeden. Online registration is available for only $35; the price is $40 for mail-in registration. It’ll cost you $45 on race-day, in the unlikely event that registration isn’t already full. Water stops and sports aid will also be available throughout the course. And I can guarantee that the drinks will be well chilled for your drinking enjoyment. There is a strict 3-hour time limit for this race. The full course map can be found online at http://www.coolrunning.com/major/08/bostonprep/BostonPrep16CourseMap.pdf.
Boston Prep Schwag
All registered runners will receive a beautifully and often humorously designed long-sleeve race shirt. In past years, shirt designs have featured the Boston Prep mascot climbing up and skiing down the elevation map of the course. This year, shirts will be offered in both men’s and women’s sizes.
But, wait! There’s more! As if the sense of accomplishment you’ll get crossing the finish line of such a tough race isn’t enough, you’ll also be awarded with a creative prize. Straying away from the standard finisher’s medal, Breeden tries to give runners another special and useful race memento. Finishers of the 2008 Boston Prep received fleece ear warmers. No word yet on what this year’s award will be. Guess you’ll just have to finish the race to find out!
And you can’t forget about the fabulous post-race meal. Greater Derry Track Club offers a delicious spread of hot soup, freshly made hummus wraps, pizza, cookies, brownies and hot and cold beverages. The post-race cool down/warm-up and celebration is held back at the West Running Brook Elementary School gymnasium. For more information on the Greater Derry Track Club, visit their website at www.gdtc.org.
Make Old Man Winter Your Training Partner
There’s not much more that can be said about the weather. It’s New Hampshire. It is what it is! It’s unpredictable. And that’s exactly what makes this race so exciting! Whether you train for this race or use this race to train, it’s a great way to get out there and brave the elements with other runners.
The snow date is set for February 1, 2009. Although a fallback date is named prior to race day, it’s not likely that Breeden will use it. This rain-or-shine event has only used the snow date once due to adverse conditions. About four years ago, Breeden says, they pushed it back two weeks because a blizzard hit the area the day before the race. And, what was the weather like on race day that year? “It was almost 60 degrees,” notes Breeden. The show will go on, no matter what it’s like out there.
So if you’re looking to join the ranks of hundreds of others by running one of the greatest races in New Hampshire, this is your chance. But act quickly; a classic like this is guaranteed to sell out fast!