Boston Prep 16-Miler – One of the Best gets Better
Who said, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” The folks at the Greater Derry Track Club certainly think otherwise as they have added a few new tricks of their own to this wintertime classic.
Posted Monday, 19 January, 2004
The Road to Boston Passes Through Derry, NH
The Boston Prep 16-Miler is one of the most popular winter races in New England and a must event for serious marathoners planning to run at Boston. It is roller coaster course that will test even the most harden distance runner. “It’s a good test,” says Dave Breeden who is in his 5th year as director of the event. Pass this test and you are on track for your marathon training; fail and it is time to go back to the drawing board.
Annually hundreds of runners make the trek to Derry to test their fitness against the tough hilly course. The end of January date fits perfectly in to most marathoner’s training schedule. Race founders Mike Beeman and Jeff Litchfield of the Greater Derry Track Club recognized a need for this type of distance event ten years ago. They designed a course that runners could use to gauge their training for the marathon and other distance events.
Always the innovator, never the follower
The organizing Greater Derry Track Club (GDTC) has continually upgraded their event with innovations not found at your average road race. Last year when temperatures dipped below the zero mark, club member Maureen Knepp came up with the idea of serving warm Gatorade. This proved to be a huge success and very much appreciated by runners on the verge of hypothermia.
The race also features a 9:00 AM Sunshine Start. “It is designed for runners who feel they cannot finish in the four hour limit,” says Dave Breeden. Sunshine runners are started one hour before the regular race. This allows them plenty of time to finish and partake in the after race festivities. However Breeden warns this is not designed to be a convenience start for faster runners – slower pace runners only, please.
This year’s event will feature chip timing provided by Bay State Race Services. This will allow for computerized splits at 5 miles, 10 miles and the half-marathon (13.1). This is an amenity rarely found in races under the marathon distance.
Also new this year is finisher medals that will feature a design symbolic of the course. The medal will surely be a must have for the ardent distance runner. One could argue that perhaps purple hearts should be awarded after finishing this event. According Steve Moland, longtime Applefest Half-Marathon committee member, "This is one of the badge of courage races in New England and now you will get a medal to prove it!"
New England’s Toughest Road Race?
The race application clearly states, “The course has been described as moderately challenging.” Well folks if this is “moderately challenging” then “challenging” must be something like running up Mount Everest! I guarantee by the time you reach the summit of Antenna Hill you will feel like you just climbed Everest.
The argument may never be resolved as to whether this is truly New England’s toughest road race. However when compared to other events such as Stu’s 30K and Around Cape Ann 25K it surely ranks up there. When all the factors such as number of hills, steepness of the hills and the very unpredictable weather are considered, this race gets my vote as New England’s toughest.
The Weather is part of the Experience
The weather has always been an integral part of this event. In 1998 there was the famous black ice year when runners slipped-slided their way across the hilly terrain. Then there was 1999 when the mercury flirted with sixty degrees followed by 2000 when the mercury topped off at eight degrees. Then in 2001 a blizzard hit the area that almost caused the event to be postponed. However the timing was such that several hundred runners had already arrived at the West Running Brook Middle School, so officials decided to go ahead with the event even though there was three inches of snow on the ground. An impressive 348 runners completed the race in blizzard like conditions.
This brings us to last year when the entire six state region was gripped in one of the worst cold spells in decades. Race morning saw temperatures in the sub-zero range. Weathermen were warning of the possibility of severe frostbite. “Exposed skin could freeze in a matter of minutes,” they told us. Despite these dire warnings, 486 of the 600 registered runners finished the race. Thus supplying more evidence that New England is home to the toughest or craziest runners in the country.
It is going to Sell Out
Although the weather may be a bit unpredictable, there is one thing you can count on – this event will be a sell out. Race organizers have set a field limit of 600 runners. “We do this because of the limitation of our facilities,” Breeden points out. “From year-to-year about one-third to one-half of the previous year’s field returns.” Last year’s event sold out early so if you don’t want to be left out in the cold, get your application in as early as possible. The race does encourage online registration although postal applications are accepted.
The George Brady Fund
Two years ago George Brady a 44-year-old runner from Portsmouth, NH died of cardiac arrest after finishing the Boston Prep 16-Miler Road Race. Mr. Brady was an avid runner who belonged to the Coastal Athletic Association and participated in numerous events along the seacoast of New Hampshire. The GDTC has established the George Brady Fund that contributes monies to the cancer research center at the Hartford Hospital in Connecticut. Mr. Brady’s sister Beth is a doctor at that institution. Runners are requested to make contributions to the fund, which are matched in full by the GDTC.
A Memorable Event
From Antenna Hill to the warm Gatorade the Greater Derry Track Club does all the right things to make sure this is an experience you will not forget. The addition of finisher medals and computerized splits along the course make this even more of a must do race. So on the morning of Feb 6, (rescheduled from January 23, 2005) expect almost anything from snow and ice to temperatures in the sixties or below zero. Regardless of the conditions you will experience one of the best-organized and challenging running events in the region.
Boston Prep 16-Miler website
Online race registration
RE-SCHEDULED to Feb 6, 2005
Sunshine start 9:00 AM for 4 hour plus participants ONLY!
$32 with shirt, $27 without shirt.
CHIP Timing provided by Bay State Timing Services
Mile markers at every mile
Four water/Gatorade stops at 3, 6, 9, & 12 miles
Plenty of post race soup & other refreshments