The Big Lake Half Marathon – New England’s Destination Race
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the building,” but he will not leave the course until the last runner passes.
Posted Monday, 1 March, 2004
Imagine a water stop manned by a group of Elvis impersonators singing Hound Dog as you run past. This is a typical water stop at the Big Lake Half Marathon in New Hampshire. This is a race that is not your usual cookie cutter half marathon; it’s more of a handcrafted event.
A Very Popular Race
The Big Lake Half Marathon is the creation of race director Keith Jordan a graphic artist by training and an ice cream entrepreneur by trade (make sure to visit Jordan’s ice cream during your visit). Jordan who has an eye for detail and a drive for customer satisfaction has made the Big Lake Half Marathon one of the springtime’s most popular destination races. The race has sold out at 1200 it’s first two years and is quickly on its way to selling out again this year (hint: get your registration in early). Runners know a good thing when they see it.
“We take a world class approach,” Jordan points out. This is evident from the pre-race pasta dinner to the finishing medals and t-shirts that Jordan designs himself. In this event every participant is treated like a world-class athlete and everything is designed to offer the athlete a first class experience. “Most of our participants are from referrals,” he adds.
The race runs along the scenic shores of The Big Lake (aka Lake Winnipesaukee) in New Hampshire. It features spectacular views of the White Mountains and Ossipee range. The course is lollipop shaped with rolling hills. It starts and finishes in the quaint village of Alton Bay, which is located at the southern tip of the lake. The picturesque Alton Bay is speckled with small cottages, houseboats and motels along its shoreline. “It would be hard to find a prettier course, in my opinion,” claims Jordan.
In its heyday, trains brought in visitors from Boston on a daily basis to Alton Bay. The old train station is still located on the shore of the lake. Today it serves as a visitors’ center and the Post-Race food center. There are only about 5,000 year round residents, but in the summer, the population increases significantly. However as Jordan points out, “The race is held during the quiet time of the year.” This makes getting accommodations easier and less expensive than in the summer.
The course is USATF certified and is well monitored. Each mile, as well as the 5K and 10K points, is clearly marked and has a digital clock for checking your progress. Strict traffic control and course radio communications is provided by the Alton Police Department. There are ambulances located at the halfway point and finish along with 10 EMTs ready to handle any medical emergency. Timing and scoring is done using the Champion Chip system.
One of the course highlights is the "Big Lake Battle". All water stops compete for prizes and cash. The most creative and spirited squad wins! Past themes have included a tropical oasis complete with a tiki hut and last year’s winners the flying Elvises from the Laconia Athletic and Swim Club. Each aid station is stocked with Gatorade, Nutfield Spring Water, Balance Bars and Carb-BOOM Energy Gels. To help with blisters or chaffing, band-aids and Vaseline will also be available.
In addition to the creative aid stations, several bands are located between the aid stations playing various forms of music and providing 13.1 miles of continuous entertainment. Even the Lead and SAG wagons are first class, provided by Audi, the event’s main sponsor. Porta-johns are located along various points on the course including the start and finish.
Chances are good you will get a fairly mild day for the race. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, temperatures in Alton Bay for May 8th have been fairly moderate over the past twenty years. The average high temperature is 63.5 degrees and the average low is 44.8 degrees. During this time, it has only rained three times in 1984, 1986 and 1990.
If you arrive at Alton Bay on Friday you may want to catch the carbo load feast. It takes place from 6-8 PM. The Alton- New Durham Lions Club does the cooking and their menu features pasta, bread, salad, and drinks. The cost is only $10 and all proceeds go to charity. B. Mae’s Suites and the Bayside Inn offer accommodations nearby. The race website supplies a comprehensive listing of local lodging.
The after race Party In The Bay includes a feast of Domino's Pizza (350 last year), Jordan's Ice Cream, Stonyfield Farm Yogurt and other great eats. Live music is supplied by Paul Warnick on the Alton Bay Bandstand. Vital Kneads School of Massage is on hand to provide much-needed massage for all participants. Each finisher gets a handsomely designed finishing medal and age group winners receive a bottle of New Hampshire maple syrup with the race logo etched into the glass – real cool!
Rod Viens (1:11:22) of Sunapee, NH and Abi Watras (1:21:23) of Greensboro, VT are the current record holders. Cash awards are given to the top 5 male and female finishers overall. $200/1st, $100/2nd, $75/3rd, $50/4th, $25/5th. Top male and female masters will receive $50.
Teams of two runners can compete as a relay team. The teams are all male, all female, and co-ed. Each runner runs approximately 6.55 miles. Buses transport the second leg runners to the relay exchange point from Alton Central School and will also pick up the first leg runners from the halfway point when they have completed their leg. They will be transported to the finish area to cheer on their teammate and all of the other runners.
This year’s race is the New England Championship for the USA Clydesdale and Filly Racing Federation; Special awards will be given to the top Clydesdales and Masters in the Men's 190-210lbs, 211-225lbs, and 226lbs.+ categories. Special awards will also be given to the top Filly Open and Masters categories (women 140 + lbs). There will be a weigh in for those competing in the championship on race morning. You must weigh in to compete in the championship. For more info, go to www.clydesdale.org.
The Big Lake Half Marathon has joined forces with organizers of the Sheraton Hyannis Half Marathon in Massachusetts and the Sportshoe Center Maine Half Marathon in Maine to launch a Tri-State Half Marathon Series in 2004. The series started in Hyannis on Feb. 29, and will be followed by Big Lake on May 8 and Maine on Oct. 3. Plans for a scoring system and prize structure are still in the works as of this writing.
As Keith Jordan points out, “It’s a fun thing to do” and anyone who has participated in past will agree. The Big Lake Half Marathon is a good challenge that is worth the trip. So lace on your blue suede running shoes and make your way up to Alton Bay in New Hampshire on May 8th where they do their best to make you feel like the King. For more information, go to www.biglakehalfmarathon.com.