Applefest Half Marathon in Hollis, New Hampshire - 'Tis the Season
Applefest has become a New England tradition, an event with nearly everything runners want. Both the half marathon and two person relay sell out year after year well in advance of race day-for good reason.
Posted Friday, 5 June, 2009
Applefest is a celebration of running in New England—a race organized by runners for runners. It is a celebration of the fall racing season. This outstanding half marathon is noted for its terrific planning and organization, and for the beautiful course through a picture-perfect quintessential New England village and farming community. It has outstanding awards a-plenty, a challenging but beautifully scenic rural course, and delicious post race food, including their very popular apple crisp—and lots of it. Throw in huge fruit basket awards or Mile High Apple pies and beautiful medals and a few cash incentives and you get an outstanding event—much sought after with runners begging for entry.
The 2009 edition will be held on September 26th, an ideal time for racing in New Hampshire—great weather and the scent of apple orchards—it is harvest time in this rural hamlet. Yes, the scene and course are rural, but this race is big time in all aspects of operation and planning. Race Directors Steve Moland and Emily Strong have all the details covered—and then some. Participants from throughout the region and the USA will gather with great anticipation for this classic early autumn run.
New this year: The famous D-tag computer timing strip/chip, which is quickly becoming known as the most efficient and accurate timing system for road races. Also for the first time "Applefest will strive to be the Greenest race in New England", as they work with Bruce Raynor and Athletes for a Fit Planet with many initiatives aimed at recyling and reduced overall environmental impact.
The course is a double loop or figure eight. It is truly scenic, and famous for its short but challenging hills--not overwhelming, but a test of fortitude. Strategy, familiarity and experience help. Great running weather is typical. The first half is essentially downhill (the lowest point on the course is just beyond half way), and there are moderate climbs in the second half. It provides a tour of the historic village center, historic colonial homes (the designated Historic District includes over 120 homes and other structures, some from the colonial or Revolutionary periods), Monument Square, historic Town Hall, Silver Lake State Park, scenic forests, cemeteries (where residents who fought at Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, and Saratoga are interred), barns, fields, orchards, and farm stands. In many places 300-year-old stone walls still line the ancient roads. The course is slightly net downhill and USATF-certified. If you are looking for a flat 13.1, don’t come to Hollis. It is a challenging and fair test, and simply beautiful.
The first upper loop of about 3.5 miles is broad and wide and clear for the early miles with outstanding traffic control. The lower loop, about 9.5 miles, is mostly rural country roads adjacent to fields, orchards, and forests tinged with colors of the area’s famous foliage. Heavily burdened apple trees send a sweet scent to runners passing by.
The course and the race are very spectator-friendly. Family and friends have views at start, finish, 2 miles, and 11.4, all within easy walking distance. Race officials have observers on bicycles following the lead pack for men and women, relaying the play by play to the finish line and the race announcer, Andy Schachat. He helps entertain the spectators with race news, as well as “Name that Tune” and “Trivia” while runners are on the course. He keeps up a running commentary, and spectators are informed on leaders and position.
Participants are always impressed with the tremendous number and quality of awards, including beautiful commemorative medals for all finishers. The top three in five-year age groups win unique prizes with the first place finisher taking home a huge fruit basket, and the second and third place runners receiving an enormous apple pie worthy of a name like “Applefest”. All prize winners also receive beautiful medals. The single age records are unique. There are cash awards for individuals (top three women and men), prizes for top locals, Clydesdale and Filly open and masters, relay team awards, terrific raffle prizes, and prized technical long sleeve T-shirts add to the booty. There is an $800 bonus for any woman or man setting a new course record.
Single Age Records
The Applefest Half Marathon has developed a remarkable history of competition highlighted by the innovative idea of single age records, a unique feature of Applefest from the inaugural in 1983. If you set the course record for your age, you receive an embroidered sweatshirt with name, time, Applefest name and logo and “Course Record”. Overall winners as well as age group winners include some of the best of New England and beyond. Patti Laliberte held the race record from that very first run in 1983 (1:18:22), until broken in 2008 by Julie Spolidoro of Duxbury, Massachusetts (1:17:17); of course she also set the age 27 record. Dave Dunham of Bradford, Massachusetts has held the men’s mark (1:06:07) since 1992.
Post Race Food—Includes Many Home-Baked Goodies
Runners experience a feast at Applefest! The Gate City Striders take great pride in their post race party, providing live music and all you can eat. The impressive spread compliments the season and the area, including the famous apple crisp and more home baked goods from volunteers than you can imagine. Great volunteers--parking, water stops, food tent, course, registration, and all other aspects—they have a higher ratio of volunteers to runners than most any other race.
Organization is first class. Experience in both racing and race management, and the willingness to go the extra mile, keeps this event in top form and in high demand. Innovation and hard work, along with the remarkable ability to treat runners of all ability levels as elite stars—indeed each runner is a guest of the Striders and the community--keep runners coming back year after year.
There is no lack of amenities. The night before the race runners can pick up their race packets (there is no late registration at packet pick up or on race day; registration is on-line only), which saves time on race morning and makes it hassle free. Every detail is covered from packet pickup to course and grounds cleanup.
Great Facilities—and Lots of Space
Hollis Brookline High School is a state-of-the-art facility and offers lockers and showers and changing facilities for all. And there is a huge outdoor tent for post race food and another for awards and a lot of space to move around, stretch, or simply sit in the grass and relax. Yes, there are outstanding facilities. Chip timing and immediate results eliminate suspense. You will find theme water stops every two miles (student groups compete for best theme and most outstanding). They have shuttle buses to-from the relay handoff, and shuttle buses from-to various parking areas. There is post-race massage. They have had the same primary sponsors for 27 years: Brookdale Fruit Farm (they provide the post race fruit and prize baskets), New England Country Pies (provider of the famous apple crisp and those Mile High Apple Pie prizes), and Kerk Motion Products, an outstanding local business.
A two-person team relay was added six years ago. Each team member runs approximately 6.5 miles. Second leg runners are bussed to the relay handoff, and teammates are shuttled back to the finish. Runners cannot drive to the handoff, but the logistics operate like clockwork. The increasingly popular relay runs the same course with the exchange just beyond the 10K mark.
Apple Town USA
To define the Applefest Half Marathon there has to be a description of Hollis, a quintessential New England village. It carries runners and visitors back in time, and has a feel of remoteness, but it is only one hour from Boston.
Hollis is post-card perfect all year round, but especially during the fall with orchards bright with apples and fields full of pumpkins. Include fruit stands and historic structures with colorful fall harvest and foliage season, and it is easy to see why there is such appeal. Hollis is a rural agricultural town located right on the Massachusetts border, and only a few miles from a major highway; it is just west of Nashua and Route 3. It is a true rural village, but easily accessible. It is a place where tradition and history are part of the fabric.
Farms, orchards and fruit stands border the course, and many race participants go apple and pumpkin picking when the racing is done. Hollis is inviting, historic, scenic and seemingly untouched by time. Harvest time is race time.
It Will Sell Out
This is not hype for this event. The Applefest Half Marathon and Relay continues to sell out early every year, because many loyal participants return and new people are fascinated to try it. This is a gem. Applefest is a near-perfect race experience--the classic autumn event. It was named the Race of the Year for 2008 by New England Runner Magazine. It has earned a lot of praise in its 27-year history for outstanding quality, organization, and innovation. Unfortunately it is limited to 1,200 runners and 150 two-person teams for the relay.
This gem of the Granite State has not rested on its laurels, but seeks continuous improvement; they want the comments of all participants. The goal is to offer each runner the best possible racing experience.
Applefest is tradition. It is held in a gorgeous season in a beautiful village setting, has the full backing of the town, 27-year sponsors, a large, dedicated and experienced running club, the Gate City Striders, to administer all aspects of the race. They have high quality awards in large numbers, terrific post race food, a large and competitive field, numerous amenities, and outstanding facilities. Experience, innovation, and dedication--that is what you get with the Applefest Half Marathon. Since 1983 generations of runners and volunteers have changed. But the tradition of excellence remains. Register as soon as possible and be part of this outstanding New England event.