Applefest Half Marathon and Relay—Big Time Race in a Sweet Small Town
The 28th Annual Applefest Half Marathon and two-person Relay is a running celebration in Hollis, New Hampshire. Applefest is most famous for four components: A wonderfully scenic and challenging course, the tremendous number and quality of awards, unique single age records, and simply wonderful, unbelievably tasty and plentiful post race food.
Posted Monday, 7 June, 2010
With the ever changing world of the New England running community it is rare to find races that last more than 10-15 years. That's why the 2010 Applefest Half Marathon, taking place on September 25th in Hollis, New Hampshire, deserves to take a bow. This marks the 28th year of one of northern New England's most popular races. That's quite a tribute to the founders of the race and the folks who have kept it going for over a quarter-century.
Professional athletes are often asked how they separate themselves from everyone else, how they manage to achieve a level of success only a few can attain. The same question could be asked of the Applefest Half Marathon. In other words, what has the Applefest Half-marathon done for over 25 years that would account for its on going success? One might also ask, why was Applefest named the 2008 Race of the Year by New England Runner Magazine?
Let’s start with the organizers because the Applefest Half Marathon is a race organized by runners for runners. The Gate City Striders running club, the largest in New Hampshire and one of the largest and best in New England, spares no expense in making sure all runners’ needs are met. Volunteers from the club and the towns are everywhere from pre-race pickup the night before to post-race refreshments, awards, and clean-up (great strides in “greening” this race). Whether it's at the start/finish area or on the course, these volunteer members, students, and citizens of Hollis and Brookline make sure the day is a good one for the “guests”, participants and spectators alike.
How about the time of year and location? The small town of Hollis, New Hampshire is located west of Nashua and offers a beautiful rural course. Now throw in the “smell” of fall, with apples ripe on the trees, pumpkins, squash and corn in the fields, and the leaves just starting to turn; there you have one of the more scenic runs any New England setting can offer.
Of course, a fall race in New England coincides with apple harvest time, which is where the race got its name. Hollis is a country town with plenty of apple orchards and fruit stands that welcome visitors during autumn. Many runners and spectators have been known to stop after the race and pick up some apples for the ride home. On the other hand award winners, and lucky raffle winners, don't have to stop to buy apples. Award winners at Applefest go home with fruit baskets and/or apple pies, courtesy of two of the race's sponsors, Brookdale Fruit Farm and New England Country Pies.
That means a lot of apple baskets and pies are handed out. Age categories are in 5 year divisions, there are Clydesdale and Filly divisions, and numerous team categories that go three deep. Of course, every runner, regardless of place of finish, can help himself or herself to plenty of servings of that famous apple crisp at the post-race refreshments tent. All participants look forward to the unique finishers’ medals for all. They are in the form of an apple. Apples may keep the doctors away, but at the Applefest Half Marathon they help keep runners coming back.
Also coming back are some of New England's top runners. With a race as old as Applefest the list of overall winners, top three finishers, and age group winners looks like a “who's who” of the region’s finest. The legendary Dave Dunham holds the course record in one hour, six minutes (set in 1992) while Julie Spolidaro set the women's standard with a 1:17 in 2008. Other winners include Eric Beauschene and Dave Beauley on the men's side and Sue LaChance of the women's side. Age group winners include two of the all-time greats in the older divisions: Carlton Mendell and Barbara Robinson.
Of course, 13.1 miles is a long way to run for a lot of people. As the saying goes, the race “has you covered”. One hundred and fifty relay teams (limit is 1,200 individuals and 150 two-person teams) traditionally take part at Applefest; the relay teams have two members running 6.4 and 6.7 miles respectively.
So, what's the course like? It is a double loop that is shaped like a figure eight. It starts and ends at beautiful Hollis-Brookline High School. The first half is net downhill with moderate climbs in the second half. The scenic tour of Hollis includes the historic village center, woods, Silver Lake, barns, fields, orchards, and cemeteries where American Revolutionary soldiers are buried. Runners also pass many 300-year old stone walls that line the course’s country roads.
In a race that has something for everyone, the something also includes spectators. The two mile mark is near the start area, giving spectators a chance to see how the early part of the race unfolds. And the 11.5-mile mark is not far away near Monument Square and the town hall. Then the spectators gather at the finish line for as much fun as a New England race provides. Announcer Andy Schachat helps spectators pass the time with a game of “Name That Tune”. Spectators that can identify tunes that Andy plays win all kinds of prizes. Then the spectators join Schachat by cheering home the finishers.
One other tradition that must be stated: the SELL OUT. For the past seven years the Applefest Half-marathon has sold out its 1,200 individual and 150 relay team entries early. Applefest is on-line preregistration only. There won't be any race day sign-up.
By now you can probably figure out why! Get in early; don’t miss it.
The 2010 Applefest Half Marathon and Relay take place on September 25. For more information go to applefesthalfmarathon.com and check it out. See you there.