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home > races/results > usa: new hampshire > applefest half-marathon and relay - (half-marathon sold out)

Applefest Half-Marathon and Relay - (Half-Marathon Sold Out)
The Applefest Half Marathon and two-person relay is one of the best in the country. It has it all--history, tradition, wonderful awards, plentiful food, and terrific organization; it runs through beautiful autumn foliage in a tour of inspiring and quaint small-town America.

Applefest Half-Marathon and Relay - (Half-Marathon Sold Out)
Brookdale Fruit farm located on the course. All photos D. Flash Schur

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By Skip Cleaver
Posted Monday, 23 August, 2004

In October the 22nd annual Applefest Half Marathon will be run in beautiful Hollis, New Hampshire. Mark down Saturday, October 2, beginning at 10:00 a.m. It is simply one of the best races in America, coursing along fields and farms, and the famous orchards of Southern New Hampshire. This will be the second year for the Half Marathon Relay, a two-person event on the same course. And this will be the very first year of the High School Relay, a new division of this remarkable race; and it is fitting, because the race proceeds benefit Dollars for Scholars. The race will begin--and end--at the Hollis-Brookline High School, less than an hour from Boston, and minutes from the convenient Manchester Airport.

Why run this one? Okay, in a nutshell: Cash prizes, accurate and quick Championchip timing, excellent medals, great food, beautiful course, friendly and enthusiastic volunteers, age group records, custom long-sleeve T’s, 5-year age groups, weight divisions, single year age group records, strictly limited field, perfect traffic control, fruit baskets, embroidered sweat shirts (age records), first-class facilities with lockers and showers, a runner-friendly town, and top notch organization. The list goes on.

This will be Applefest—fast course with the flavors and fragrance of fall in rural New England.


This will be Applefest—fast course with the flavors and fragrance of fall in rural New England.


It Takes a Village

Few races pay such remarkable attention to detail. Few are run in such a welcoming, historic village, few take care of runners’ every need as this one does. In part, this is because every member of the race committee is a serious runner. The race was founded by runners—the Gate City Striders--and has had tremendously effective and dedicated direction over the years—a kind of Who’s Who of Race Directors. Current Race Director Chet Rogers is a marathon runner, as is Co-Director Emily Strong. “By Runners, for Runners” is much more than a slogan.

And much of the town has been involved over the years. On race day the town’s population of 7,347 increases temporarily by more than 50% as runners and their friends and families roll in for the festivities.

Throughout the village, on every road and lane, and on adjoining farms, there will be a palpable sense of history and tradition. Hollis was settled as a frontier town in 1730, and chartered in 1746. There were 214 residents who served as soldiers in the Revolution—an amazing number for such a small town.

The race began as a part of the town’s fall Apple Festival, and local sponsors signed on to make it all possible. Those sponsors still support the race—and runners generally--after 22 years. Brookdale Fruit Farm, located at the 11-mile mark, provides fruit to complement the amazing array of home baked goods at the finish, and they present fruit baskets for prizes that are the envy of all. Brookdale is owned by the Hardy family, residents of Hollis since before the Revolutionary War (Isaac Hardy died while fighting with Oliver Hazard Perry on Lake Erie in the War of 1812.

New England Country Pies, also contributors of prizes, have helped to make this race famous with their delicious apple crisp served in the food tent just beyond the finish. New England Country Pies and their signature Mile High Apple Pies were for many years at the four-mile mark on the course. They are now just over the border in neighboring Merrimack.

Kerk Motion Products, located on nearby Proctor Hill Road, has also been there from the beginning. What could be more important to runners than motion? Proctor Hill is named for another of the early pioneers.

The Hollis Police Department always does a terrific job on race day, led by Chief Richard Darling, a long-time runner and member of the Striders. Town Planner Virginia Mills is a 23-year member. In other words, this is a true community event, and participants are the beneficiaries of quality planning and tremendous pride in the race and the region.

A Great Year in 2003

Last year was a significant year in Applefest lore. It was the Crowell and Lowell show. Raelyn Crowell of the host Gate City Striders won the women’s race in 1:24:20, posting the fastest time in nine years. She was the first Gate City woman to win since Lori Lambert in 1997. Lowell Ladd of Brighton, Massachusetts zipped to the fastest men’s time in 10 years with his 1:10:33, edging two-time champ Eric Beauchesne.

The Relay was introduced in 2003, and it sold out quickly. It was limited to 150 teams; it will be the same for this season. Five age records were set last year, including the youngest runner in its history, and the oldest. Andy Raitto of Hollis, age 10, ran 2:19:43. And Carlton Mendel of Maine sped to his 11th single age group record, clocking 2:36:44 at age 81. Dave Parsel of California posted his fifth consecutive age record, a 1:15:44 at age 48 (he won outright in his first two). Wendy Burbank of Boxford, Massachusetts galloped to her second straight age group record, 1:48:15 at age 61.

The Relay

The relay will be run in two segments: the first 6.4 miles, and the last 6.7 miles. The relay handoff is at the intersection of Nevins and Farley Roads. Phineas Nevins died in the Battle of Bunker Hill along with five Hollis neighbors), and the Farley family was prominent from the 1750’s, with Enoch Farley playing an important role in town during the Civil War.

Buses will take all second-leg runners to the relay point, and will return all first-leg runners from the hand-off to cheer partners at the finish. The high school participants and the other relay runners will compete in separate divisions—high school, open, masters, and seniors--women, men, and mixed.


Beginning with the first Applefest race in 1983, unique records have been kept for every age, not just age groups—a signature feature of Applefest. They now extend from age 10 to 81, and anyone who breaks these records wins a sweatshirt with embroidered Applefest logo along with their name, and age group. Please note that no woman 66 or older has ever run this race. Joe Fernandez of New Bedford, Massachusetts set a national veteran’s record in 1989 (1:20:54, Applefest age 61 record).

An $800 bonus will be awarded for a course record (1:06:07, Dave Dunham, 1992; 1:18:22, Patti Laliberte, 1983). In fact, nine records set in the very first race (1983), including Laliberte’s women’s overall mark, have not been broken in 20 years. These records provide everyone a measure for their efforts, no matter what their age.

Food Fest

“Applefest has the best post-race food, period,” claims a 16-year participant. And the point is difficult to argue. The post-race fiesta starts with the famous apple crisp provided by 22-year sponsor New England Country Pies. Along with the apple crisp the committee presents the widest variety of baked goods and large quantities of fruit, yogurt, and beverages. Thank the hard-working post race food committee on the way through the tent. They are dedicated, and they are without parallel. This feature is one among many that brings runners back year after year.


Applefest will present awards to 150 runners this year, plus more prizes for single age record setters and high school relay teams. That is a very impressive number. That is 1 in 10 (1,200 half marathon runners and 300 relay participants) a very high percentage. There will be cash prizes of $300, $200, and $100 for first, second, and third females and males overall. Awards are provided three deep in 12 divisions (5-year age groups) for women and men, plus prizes for the top three female and male weight (Clydesdale) divisions. The top three local females and males also win awards. The top relay teams overall in three divisions--female, male, and mixed—will receive $100 cash. And there are relay awards going three deep in three categories—open, masters, and seniors—in female, male, and mixed groups.


The most important thing to remember about registration is that there is a limited field, and it will fill—both the relay and the half. Get this one in early, because it is first come, first run.

Registration can be by mail or on-line, but you will save $5.00 across the board by entering on-line. Additionally, runners have a choice—shirt or no shirt. Many runners have a closet full already, but this one is very attractively done, and is always a collectable. There is no race day registration for either half marathon runners or relay runners. Number pick up will be available Friday, October 1 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., or from 8:00 to 9:30 on race morning—both at the Hollis-Brookline High School.

It will be memorable—a terrific run and a bundle of fun. It’s your pace, your race, and your place—a small place in the history of Hollis and the tradition that is Applefest.



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