Applefest Half Marathon and Relay—Small Town Atmosphere, Big Time Race
The 29th Annual Applefest Half Marathon and two-person Half Marathon Relay is a running celebration in Hollis, New Hampshire. Beautiful rural course, fruit basket and pie prizes, beautiful medals, scrumptious post race food—yes, that famous apple crisp.
Posted Sunday, 17 July, 2011
What was the Jackson Five’s first hit and, more importantly, what does that have to do with a 13.1 mile race that is taking place in Hollis, New Hampshire on October 1st? The answers are “I Want You Back” and knowing that answer will be part of the fun of the 2011 Applefest Half Marathon. No, being a whiz about music history won’t help a runner go any faster at this New England road race classic, but it sure makes the day a lot more enjoyable when a game of “Name That Tune” is part of the day’s activities.
But, first things first: The 29th annual Applefest Half Marathon is almost upon us, as the host club, the Gate City Striders, and the beautiful country town of Hollis, New Hampshire get ready to host well over 1,500 runners who will be taking part in this great half marathon event that includes a two-person relay. The race is not just a half marathon for runners looking to go 13.1 miles but the event also includes the two-person relay that annually draws dozens of teams; each member runs about half the course with shuttle buses to and from the handoff point.
It is one of New England’s oldest, with the inaugural in 1983. It is not often that a New England race lasts 29 years, so it is fair to ask: how has Applefest done it?
Let’s start with the organizers. The Gate City Striders running club is one the largest clubs in New England, started in 1979, and one that spares no expense in making sure all runners’ needs are met. Volunteers from the club and the towns are everywhere from pre-race packet pick-up the night before to post-race refreshments, awards, and clean-up. Whether it's at the start/finish area or duties on the course, these volunteer members, students, and citizens of Hollis and Brookline make sure the day is a good one for the “guests”, including participants and spectators alike.
Of course, a beautiful autumn setting for a race and lovely New Hampshire village can’t hurt. The small town of Hollis, New Hampshire is located a few miles 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.
Did someone mention apples? The Applefest Half marathon 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 apples, fruit baskets and pies are handed out. Age categories are in five-year divisions; and there are Clydesdale and Filly divisions, and numerous team categories that go three deep. This race also has a unique feature: Single Age records with prizes for those who run faster than any others of their age in that year.
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 shape of an apple and are made by the best—Ashworth Awards. 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, year after year. 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. One of New England’s more recent stars, Patrick Moulton, has been the men’s winner for the past two years and has joined other male multiple winners like Eric Beauschene and Dave Beauley. On the women’s side, Sue LaChance has five wins. Age group winners include two of the all-time greats in the older divisions: Carlton Mendell and Barbara Robinson.
Everyone asks, what is the course like? It is a two-loop figure eight with a small southern loop in and around the village, and a larger northern loop through farms and forests. 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.
So, what’s this business about “Name That Tune”? While the runners are away (on the course) the spectators will play. Race announcer Andy Schachat plays songs over the finish line PA system, spectators guess the song and win all kinds of prizes. Then the spectators join Schachat by cheering home the finishers.
Just a quick mention is needed that new volunteers are always welcome, that there is post-race massage, and Granite State Race Services does the timing, assuring quick and accurate results.
Let it also be said that another tradition holds true at Applefest: the sellout. For many years the Applefest Half Marathon has sold out its 1,200 individual and 150 relay team entries early. Applefest uses Active 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.
For more information on the 2011 Applefest Half Marathon, please go to http://www.applefesthalfmarathon.com.