Big Time and Big Fun at Big Lake
How would you have answered this question? A few years ago you got a call from a person who has never directed a road race in the state of New Hampshire. He wants to start a half-marathon in the small town of Alton and hold it in the middle of May. You know that Alton is very popular in the summer because it is on Lake Winnipesaukee but holding it May? How big a race do you think it would be?
Posted Monday, 27 February, 2006
You figure a half-marathon in that part of state should have low expectations and if the guy gets 500-600 runners he should be happy, right? No way is the race going to become the second largest in New Hampshire with close to 1200 finishers. That’s what you would have said.
One problem. You don’t know that the guy you are talking to is Keith Jordan, the owner of Endorfun Sports. In a few short years Jordan has earned a national reputation as a race director, particularly in the triathlon world. That is why you had no idea that Jordan is going to introduce a special event to the Granite State racing scene, the Big Lake Half-marathon.
To understand what an Endorfun Sports race is about consider this: the 2005 Big Lake Half-marathon, the fourth year of the race, drew 1190 finishers in the rain and that was the smallest of the three annual events that Endorfun Sports organizes in N.H. The others, the Granite Ledges and Timberman Triathlon Festivals, get close to 2,000 participants over a weekend.
It starts with Jordan and continues with the family, friends, and others that make up the Endorfun Sports staff. They are driven to produce the best event possible for runners, triathletes, spectators, and probably a few passersby that happen upon the event. No stone is left unturned. Activities that surround an Endorfun Sports event have included live music, fireworks, seminars, pre-race dinners, sponsors expo’s, kid’s events, and post-race parties that rock.
For starters, the locations of an Endorfun sports event are not chosen randomly. Every event is chosen for its scenery. In the case of the Big Lake Half-marathon runners run along Lake Winnipesaukee, ending right on the water at Alton Bay. Familiar with Route 11 in Alton? Then you know about the sign that says “scenic view approaching” as Mount Major approaches. Runners reach that point at about the halfway mark in the race. Might be a good idea to bring a camera along and stop for a moment. A picture from that spot has been seen on many a postcard. If weather permits (okay last year it was cold and rainy and no one stuck around) the finish line and post-race area also offers a beautiful view of the lake. There will be other views of the lake along the way.
While on the subject of the course let’s take a look at it in great detail. It starts out with some incline in the first mile but the first few miles are relatively flat. Then the rise begins as the midway point approaches. While staying on route 11 there is downhill portion, perhaps the fastest point on the course.
Then the “fun begins”. A turn off of route 11 brings runners to route 11D and rolling hills, probably the toughest portion of the course. Rolling hills are always tough to deal with but at this race there is another interesting challenge. As you travel from miles eight to eleven you start heading back to route 11. A quick glance to your right and you think you are almost back to route 11 and a flat portion of the course. Problem is, you’re probably not as close as you thought. Eventually, though, you get back on route 11 and the last couple of miles are flat and fast. It won’t be the toughest 13.1 miles you have ever run but it will be far from the easiest.
But it may be the most fun you have running a half-marathon. That’s because the support people, serving at the water stops will be there to entertain you. Runners aren’t the only ones competing on race day. There are prizes for the best water stop, known as the Big Lake Battle. Runners vote for the best-decorated water stop. Winners have included a stop made to look like a MASH unit and the Elvis impersonators. There will also be music at water stops along with the water and sports drink that you will want to keep you going. The race takes no responsibility if you linger at a stop because you are enjoying yourself too much.
How well you run will be due in large part to the weather. It is hard to know what to expect from that part of New Hampshire in mid-May. The first three years of the race it was sunny, a bit warm some years, windy others. In 2005 it was rainy and cold, not very good for the spectators but a fast day for the runners. Be prepared for anything.
Also, be prepared to stuff your face when the race is over. There will be 300 pizza’s, Jordan’s Ice Cream (yes, a family business), and yogurt, along with all kinds of juice and soda.
Then sit back and listen to the music of Paul Warnick, the official entertainer of Endorfun Sports events. Want a sample? Check out www.paulwarnick.com. And if you won an award you really need to stick around. Know any other race that gives out real maple syrup bottles as age group awards?
As for the other particulars, rest assured you are in good hands. The finish line is a mile and half from the start so there will be buses to take clothes to the finish line and to take runners back to the start. There will be volunteers galore to get you where you need to go, before, during, and after the race.
Other amenities include a unique custom designed T-shirt, professional photographers capturing runners throughout the race, championchip timing by Granite State Race Services, clocks at every mile and finish line announcing. The race has also teamed up with the Maine Half-marathon and Hyannis Half-marathon for the Tri-state series. Run all three events, earn points, and you will win some nice prizes.
While most runners will arrive the day of the race everyone is invited to attend the carbo load pasta dinner the night before. Never been to Lake Winnipesaukee? Come up the day before, do some sight seeing, and attend the dinner. You won’t be sorry.
So, how do Jordan and the Endorfun Sports pull it off. Not only do they work hard but they have strong partnerships with their sponsors, groups that have been with Endorfun Sports from the beginning. Laconia Athletic and Swim Club, Aegis Bike, Metrocast, Fuel Belt, and the Citizen newspaper company and a whole host of others have supported the Big Lake for years and make it all possible.
The Big Lake Half also welcomes runners who are part of the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training Program. Many members of this program run Big Lake every year, raising thousands of dollars.
No surprisingly, the front of the pack has seen some of NH’s best runners take part. Big Lake has been part of the NH Grand Prix series and counts amongst its winner Rod Viens of Sunapee and Scott Rowe of Dover, two of NH’s best. On the women’s side Abi Watras, formerly of Vermont is a two-time winner, the only two time winner in the race’s four year history. Viens holds the course record of 1 hour, 11 minutes, 22 seconds with Watras holding the women’s record in 1:21:23.
For more information, go to www.endorfunsports.com. Follow the link to the Big Lake Half-marathon. In the meantime, circle May 13 on your calendar. We’ll see you at the lake. The 2006 Big Lake Half-marathon takes place on May 13 at 9:00.