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home > races/results > usa: new hampshire > applefest half marathon and two-person relay: thirty years and still going strong

Applefest Half Marathon and Two-Person Relay: Thirty Years and Still Going Strong
Join the celebration: Applefest is running for the 30th annual, and over the same great rural roads in Hollis, New Hampshire. The course is lined with farms, fields, and orchards in fall foliage (and apple picking) season—great season and reason for running, coming Saturday, October 6, 2012.

Applefest Half Marathon and Two-Person Relay: Thirty Years and Still Going Strong

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By Michelle Boisvert
Posted Sunday, 30 September, 2012

A lot can happen in 30 years. Take 1983, for example. A few great things came to an end—the final episode of M*A*S*H aired, the last Delorean was produced, Bjorn Borg retired from tennis. We can recall that some things had their start in 1983—the band KISS first appeared in public without make-up; Fraggle Rock debuted on HBO; and The Gate City Striders, a Nashua, New Hampshire-based running club, created the Applefest Half Marathon.

Fast-forward 30 years. Fraggle Rock went off the air just four short years after its debut. KISS is still around, but most people are just happy they put their make-up back on. But year after year, runners are still clamoring to get a bib number for the Applefest Half Marathon, which has become a mainstay in the fall New England road racing circuit. And 2012, which marks the 30th annual Applefest Half Marathon and Two-Person Relay, will be no different. Get in on the action early—and be part of running history on Sunday, October 6th.

A Winning Combination
There’s no single factor that makes a race number for Applefest Half Marathon and Two-Person Relay such a coveted fall running essential. It’s truly a wonderful combination of beautiful scenery, a challenging well managed course, exemplary race organization, crowd and volunteer support, and a post-race feast featuring delicious apple crisp and so much more.

First, let’s look at that course. Hollis, New Hampshire is refreshing mix of apple orchards and local farms within a quiet bedroom community which still has much of the quintessential village flavor of colonial days. If a town could have a season, autumn belongs to Hollis, as it has for centuries. As the leaves turn vibrant fall colors and begin to cover the ground, Hollis’ beauty awakens. And the Applefest Half Marathon and Two-Person Relay course runs through the beautiful scenic farms and village where Minutemen put down their hoes, picked up their muskets and went off to Concord, Valley Forge, and Yorktown.

The race starts at 10:00 a.m. from Hollis-Brookline High School and heads out toward the center of town for a fast and mostly flat “warm-up” 2.5-mile loop. Enjoy this easy start because the USATF-certified 13.1-mile course is going to challenge you from here on out. At the third mile, racers run north on Route 122 and hit a long downhill at mile. By mile four through five miles, the course hands you one rolling hill after another to test your patience and restraint. The roads level out in miles 6 to 8, allowing runners to catch their breath and get their heads back into the race before meeting up with the three hills of Wheeler Road. Once you crest Wheeler Road at about 10.5, you can relax again until mile 12.3 where there is a challenging slope.

As the saying goes, “Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” Well, remember that nice, long downhill you hit at the beginning of the race? Yup … it’s back. But this time it’s disguised as an uphill. If you’ve run a smart race and paced properly, you’ll have something in the tank at this point. If you haven’t, the final climb up Merrill Road will remind you of it. Want to know the bright side? You’re nearly done and the course has punished you enough. The remainder of the race, the final kilometer, is mostly flat and down with a very slight incline near the finish line.

Sound like too much for you? You don’t have to go it alone. The Applefest Half Marathon relay lets you tackle the course with another runner with the two-person relay. The first leg is 6.4 miles and has a net downhill. The second leg starts out flat and then begins the climbs of Wheeler Road. Both the half marathon and the relay start at the same time. And if you’re not great with logistics, there’s no need to worry. Those tackling the second half of the race will catch a bus to the hand-off before the start (and first-leg runners get the same bus back to the finish in time to see their teammates cross the line—so you don’t have to shuttle runners around and miss your warm up.

Runners Know What Runners Want
None of this race could be possible if it weren’t for race organizers who know the ins and outs of running, race organization and the roads of Hollis. They have insight into the twisted minds of runners. They can lead us like pied pipers up and down beautiful stretches of country roads because we want the challenge. And they also know that we’ll soon forget all about our burning quads and taxed lungs at the finish line, when they hand us a beautiful race medal and a sweet piece of fresh apple crisp.

The Applefest Half Marathon and 10-year-old Two-Person Half Marathon Relay are the brainchild of The Gate City Striders, a Nashua-based running club that started in 1979. And this club knows how to put on a race. And they get the right help; specifically it takes a village to do it. With more than 150 volunteers from local running clubs, local schools and the town, the Hollis Police, public works, and school personnel, Applefest runs like a well-oiled machine — from set up to water stops to packet pickup to clean up. And because the race occurs during the Hollis Apple Festival, the course isn’t short on spectators either.

And race organizers aren’t done improving upon this already stellar race. They have big plans in the works for 2012, and are looking to add a special event to celebrate the 30th running of Applefest Half Marathon. Stay tuned and check the race website for more information on this exciting addition in the coming months!

Did Someone Say Apple Crisp?
Okay, it’s about time to talk about the important stuff — the post-race food. The signature of Applefest has always been the all-you-can-eat apple crisp at the finish line. And there are other great and filling treats to nosh on in the refreshment tent. Award winners get an even sweeter prize -- Mile High Pies from the local Merrimack, N.H. bakery.

Located west of Nashua, N.H. and north of Pepperell, Mass., Hollis is easy to get to from the highway. So runners from all over New England and of all abilities flock to Hollis to try their legs at Applefest. This race can get very competitive, with local talent vying to get a piece of the pie. Male and female records stand at 1:06:07 and 1:17:17, respectively. The single age awards and records are a unique and welcome aspect of the race—and have been for 30 years.

Relay awards will be given to first place male, female and coed teams. Relay division medals and apple pie awards will be given to the top three in each category: Open, Masters and Seniors (50+) for male, female and coed teams.

All registered runners receive a long-sleeve technical shirt and a well-crafted finisher’s medal that doubles as a bottle opener. The shirt design will go a bit “retro” to commemorate the 30th annual running of Applefest, said race director Bill Farina. The course tops out at 1,200 half marathon runners and 300 relay teams so register early to ensure you don’t get shut out. Online registration is available at

Applefest isn’t just for the Runners
Sure, the race directors know how to please runners, but they also know how to give back. Money raised from the Applefest Half Marathon and Two-Person Relay goes to local charities and scholarships for Hollis Brookline High School students.

Past monies raised have purchased bleachers for the school and a flag pole for the town, for example. And the high school students get involved in the race as well. Each class hosts a water stop and runners vote on the most enthusiastic water baristas on the course.

With the perfect blend of course, natural beauty, masterful organization and, of course, apple crisp, it’s easy to see why Applefest Half Marathon and Two-Person Half Marathon Relay have outlasted so many novelties from 1983. And that’s probably a good thing, because I’d much rather be running the rolling hills of Hollis, N.H., than watching a new episode of Fraggle Rock while wearing my parachute pants.



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