Run the ORIGINAL Relay! - The Fred Brown Lake Winnipesaukee Relay in New Hampshire
It’s the most enjoyable team day—the 22nd Annual Lake Winnipesaukee Relay on Saturday, September 25, 2010 beginning at 8:00 a.m. Enjoy eight legs, 65 miles of jaw-dropping New England scenery.
Posted Thursday, 19 August, 2010
Well before today’s explosion of long distance relays there was the Lake Winnipesaukee Fred Brown Relay. This relay, which circumnavigates the famous lake, is the one that started it all in New England, and still delivers a terrific team experience. In its 22nd year the Fred Brown Lake Winnipesaukee Relay is the grand-daddy of them all with eight beautiful, challenging legs over 65 scenic miles – you owe it to yourself and your friends to experience this grand New England tradition.
The Fred Brown Lake Winnipesaukee Relay offers the perfect mix of team spirit, scenery and challenge. Grab your friends or teammates and make the day trip or stay the weekend; and run this awesome relay with me!
I have personally run the Lake Winnipesaukee Relay at least a half dozen times and I love the race. I love the camaraderie of spending the day with a team of running friends. I love the soul-filling New Hampshire landscape. I love the grand vistas of the big lake, mountains and farms. I love the long relay legs on the lonely old New Hampshire rural roads. I love the challenge of the hills. And I love the joyous exhaustion of a worthy thing well done.
But why should YOU get a team together to run the Winnipesaukee Relay this year?
Team spirit – running a relay brings people together in the pure pursuit of a common task. This is not only team-building, this is friend-building. There are no deeper friendships than those forged in the shared and joyous victory over a worthy and difficult task. You will have so much fun with your new and old friends at Lake Winnipesaukee that you will feel that you have escaped the real world and gone off to summer camp with your friends. It is a runner’s perfect friend-team activity.
Location and scenery – Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire and a Mecca for winter and summer activities. This relay circumnavigates the lake, and around each corner is a post-card view. Whether it is the forest-covered granite Belknap and Sandwich Mountains shouldering the course or the grand expanse of the lake itself, the scenery is something you cannot fully appreciate unless you are there, on your feet and breathing it in; taking a foot-powered tour of this magical place.
The course – On this course there is something for everyone. There are difficult hilly legs, long downhill “runaway” legs and short easy legs. The course is designed to support a mixed team—that is, runners of various abilities. You don’t have to be elite to run. Everyone is welcome and all runners have a leg for them.
Time of Year – The Race is held in September. This is perfect timing in the Lakes Region. The summer bustle of tourists has gone but the warm autumn days remain. The off-peak season will grant you bargains if you choose to stay. The leaves are just starting to turn and winter has yet to set in. If you’re training for a fall marathon you can run one of the long legs for some on-course tuning and soak your legs in the cool lake water to recover.
One day or a weekend in paradise – The Race Director is Chris Gleason, and she leads a team that is top notch. Race organizer and former NMC President Jeff Gould likes to invite all participants to spend some time in the area and really enjoy this course. Lake Winnipesaukee is an easy day trip from Greater Boston. Runners can drive up in the morning, run their leg and get home in the afternoon. But for those looking to do it right and “waste” a weekend, there are plenty of places to eat, drink, be merry and sleep - all with your friends! It’s a great venue to bring the family along as well with lots to do – so get them in the car and bring them with you for a short vacation.
Tradition – The Fred Brown Lake Winnipesaukee Relay is the oldest distance road relay in New England and one of the oldest in the country. This race is put on by the North Medford Club, which is in itself the second oldest running club in the U.S. The race honors a pioneer of our sport, club founder Fred Brown, who spent his long and fruitful life encouraging others to run. Be part of this wonderful tradition.
Challenge – There are legs on this course that will challenge you. You will need the encouragement of your team to soldier on and make it count. But the challenge, when it comes is a good one, an honest test. It is a challenge that will let you speak with a superior air about “flat courses” and “easy races”. This race has enough ‘meat’ to it and you will know you have done something worthwhile, something to be proud of when you sprint through the chute and hand the baton to your cheering teammates.
Organization – The volunteers who manage the Winnipesaukee Relay have been doing it for years, in some cases decades! The North Medford Club does it alone—there are no corporate sponsors. These volunteers are runners who are keeping the relay going each year for the love of the sport. You can run and bask in the glow of their passion. The race comes off every year like clockwork so you and your team can focus on the joy and the challenge of this rolling celebration of our sport.
Clubs, groups, organizations and friends – Teams are created by running clubs, schools, alumni groups, companies and old friends. They create a funny or engaging name to paint their theme. They gather at the Fun Spot in Weirs Beach. They mingle and rush about to get ready. They jump in cars and leapfrog teammates around the 65 miles of the lake’s shores and bays and farms. They stand and cheer in the afternoon as the anchor runner pulls up the last hill and runs under the clock back to Fun Spot for a spent and joyous team reunion.
This September teams of runners from all over will gather early Saturday morning at the start as they have for 22 years. As the morning mist rises off the great lake they will set off on a 65 mile journey around the entire lake. These teams of will spend the day handing off batons and cheering teammates. And at the end of the day they will emerge as friends having shared this wonderful experience that is the Winnipesaukee Relay.
Those of us who have run this relay over the years know that each of the eight legs has its own personality and character. We could give them nicknames, as they are friends and nemeses; fond acquaintances and hard adversaries. I cannot state with enough emphasis the character of this course on that autumn day. It is something you must do if you have a chance. You owe it to yourself to experience the Lake Winnipesaukee Relay like generations of runners before you!
Leg One - Runners gather at the Fun Spot and the race kicks off at 8:00 a.m. The first leg of the relay brings you through the Weirs Beach boardwalk area. This is a classic New England summer beach vacation town that has been serving the tourist throngs since the rail road arrived. I ran this leg last year and there are some tough, long, uphill pulls, but the views are incredible with the lake on your left and the mountains on your right. The company was great as well as I chatted with fellow runners and swapped tall tales about previous years excursions. With one final uphill push the 10.7-mile leg concludes at Arlberg Ski shop at the base of Gunstock Ski Area.
Leg Two – Your second runner embarks on the longest leg of the relay at eleven miles. I have run this leg several times and it is one of my favorites because it is “relatively easy” as you lose altitude down the hill and along the lake into Alton Bay. You can set some incredibly fast times on the downs on this leg. This one also contains one of the best views you will get of the south side of the lake. You finish with a long shallow downhill with a long line of sight along the shore into the exchange; so you can really leave it all out there.
Leg Three – My first year running my team gave me this one. This leg starts with a wakeup call. The legendary Bay Hill Road is located a brief run from the exchange. It’s a real “chin-scraper”. For about three quarters of a mile all you’ll get to see is the road rising in front of you as you negotiate this 11-percent climb. It takes a very special runner to run the entire distance of Bay Hill – most walk. I remember when I ran it someone had put a sign out, about half-way up the hill that said “Don’t worry, be happy!” After you crest the hill the rest is a rolling trek to Kingswood Regional High school and tallies as a 9.3-mile challenge.
Leg Four – This is the easiest and is usually reserved for an injured or less experienced teammate. It goes four miles from Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro to the Abenaki Ski Area. This leg is relatively flat. This is also the part of the course where your team logistical skills come into play. There is no parking at Abenaki Ski Area so shuttle buses are provided to and from Kingswood Regional High School where there is ample parking. The car with “Runner 5” has to get to the Kingswood Regional High School and get them on the shuttle on time! On leg four runners need to stay on the sidewalks because the police take notice!
But don’t think this race is some super-serious affair. At the half-way point of this tour of the course I’m going to share some of the team names from last year’s race. The winners were “CU at the keg” – with a 5:38/mile average pace they are serious runners – but not serious about the world! Other teams included: “Fluffy Bunnies of Fury”, “Winnie Wonka and the Mojito Factory”, “Beer Today, Gone Tomorrow”, “What Were We Thinking?”, “Cheeky Monkeys”, “Injury Prone-Prone”…I think you get the idea – this relay is as much about the joy of running and celebrating with friends as it is about racing.
Leg Five – This pretty leg goes 10.8-miles through the back wooded roads of Wolfeboro and Tuftonboro. It finishes at the picturesque Morgan Farm. This is another leg where you need to practice your logistics. No parking or traffic is allowed through the farm road so shuttle buses are provided. If you don’t mind jogging a mile or so you can park and hike to the exchange zone. I remember a nice downhill finish to the interesting site of an exchange area full of runners but very few cars. It’s a serene and peaceful leg through quiet woods and meadows. At this point in the relay the runners are mostly well dispersed and you may change places with three or four others in the 10.8 miles.
Leg Six - This 6.4-mile run is primarily downhill. There are a couple rolling hills, but mostly it is fast. The finish is at the bottom of a long fast downhill by the Moultonboro School. This is another of the less challenging legs that you can balance a team with. Part of the fun of the race is matching runners to legs, and teams all have strategies.
Leg Seven - My friend Mark loves leg seven even though I believe it has gotten the better of him several times! This 8.5-mile leg contains no flat area at all. It is all long uphill pulls rewarded with long downhill cruises. The vistas of farms and fields are there to keep you company. Leg seven ends with a downhill run to Interlakes High School in Meredith.
Leg Eight – Race organizer Jeff Gould told me he loves this leg and runs it many hours after firing the starting gun. The final leg is 4.4-miles but not easy. It is a set of long uphill and downhill pulls that finishes on a long grade up to the big clock at the finish. Your team can see you coming ½ mile away and you get to make that last hill a historic charge to the finish in front of a cheering crowd. There are great views of the lake. Then it is all over: 65 miles, 8 legs, buckets of effort and encouragement all culminate back at the Fun Spot in the afternoon. Teams barbeque in the Fun Spot picnic area and wait for the awards ceremony where top teams and age group winners usually get commemorative beer glasses!
History – This is a race with a long history. It was originally (17 years) run in Massachusetts from Plymouth to Provincetown, the length of Cape Cod, until the Barnstable chief of police didn’t give permission one year. The North Medford club and Fred Brown, undeterred, moved the whole concept north to Lake Winnipesaukee where it has been now for 22 years.
You’ll be joining quite a tradition when you and your team run the Lake Winnipesaukee Fred Brown Relay on September 25, 2010. In fact you will be uncovering a secret gem of the New England running community. Before there was all the noise and commotion of typical races we have today, there was a simple and beautiful relay for runners up in the Lakes Region in autumn that all the clubs flocked to each year.
Grab your team and make plans now to join us at Lake Winnipesaukee in September. This is a New England tradition and a must-do relay race for runners of all abilities. I expect to see you there and together we will have a blast as we circumnavigate the great lake on foot. Creativity and challenge, fun and frivolity—your team, your relay awaits.