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home > races/results > usa: new hampshire > want to be part of something you'll never forget? - reach the beach!

Want to be part of something you'll never forget? - Reach the Beach!
210 miles, 24 hours and camaraderie you'll cherish for a lifetime.

Want to be part of something you'll never forget? - Reach the Beach!

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By Christopher Russell
Posted Thursday, 18 May, 2006

The running madness that is the Reach the Beach Relay returns for another year. If you haven't done it before, form a team or hook up with a team. Even average 5k and 10k runners can train themselves up to compete in the relay.

Ask a veteran; it is part race, part road-trip and part sleep-over. It's one big, rolling, sleep-deprived, sweat-soaked, joyous, running party. It is one of the best supported relays of its kind. Set the real world aside and join the Reach the Beach, you won't regret it.

But, if you want to experience the "RTB" (as insiders call it) this year, you need to act soon. Teams are limited to 300 and it always sells out early. The chatter on the web site ( forums is already heating up as returning teams position for another adventure.

"As a team full of first time RTBers, but frequent racers … we were blown away at this event! Awesome job. It really is the best organized, nicest, most fun race I've competed in or cheered on. From your staff to the youngest volunteers out in the rain at the transition areas. Really well done!"

If you're coming back you already know what's in store for you at this event. At the Reach the Beach Relay many 'regulars' love it so much that they come back year after year. They sing praise for the event and it is something they look forward to all year long. With that kind of endorsement from regulars, how can you go wrong?

"This was our first time running in the RTB and most definitely not our last!! We were a team of 10 newbies and 2 returning RTB'ers, and we had an awesome experience, and so much fun!! Thanks for your time and all your effort and for making our first RTB relay a most memorable one. See you next year : )"

The Reach the Beach Relay will start from Bretton Woods Ski Area September 15th and make its way through 210 miles of N.H. countryside to finish on Hampton Beach 24 (or so) hours later on the 16th.

Memories and friendships to last a lifetime…

"Thanks again for a wonderful experience. RTB gives us a great chance once a year to get together, to put aside our daily responsibilities and pretend for about 30 hours that we're 20 and it's college again."

The race will end, your legs will heal, you'll catch up on your sleep, you will return to your work-a-day existence but you will carry with you the pearl of a memory that no one can take from you. You will remember that you are capable of surmounting great challenges. You will remember that you were part of something larger than 'self'.

As you sit in your rocking chair you will think back to a weekend spent in the rugged beauty of New Hampshire with a crew of comrades. A weekend spent suffering and striving, a weekend indelibly unforgettable.

The preparation, the vans full of nervous runners, the mountains, the small towns, the nights filled with flashing vests and solitary headlamps; it will all come rushing back to you in joyous waves and you will smile the smile of one who has been in the arena and dared the great things.

As you muse on moments of pain and struggle, maybe the face of a buddy will rise from the mist of memory. These comrades will have become unforgettable in the shared bond of experience. Somewhere in your trove of physical things there will be a picture of a team of fit and smiling teammates preparing to embark from the base camp at Bretton Woods on an odyssey of wonder and discovery.

This is the impact that the Reach the Beach relay will have on you. If you have run other relays, you should try on this one for size. If you have not competed in a relay before it is something you should do. This is an experience open to the ultra-athlete and the weekend 10k runner alike. It is something you'll not soon forget!

Volunteers make the difference.

"With 300 teams registered, I dreaded trying to get in and out at Bear Brook, but was pleasantly surprised by how well organized the parking was and how prepared the volunteers were. Everyone knew what to do and with the transition area moved off the road, it couldn't have been smoother."

If you had to call out one thing that makes this event different from others of its ilk it would be the organization and volunteer support. At many big relays runners are asked to bring their own volunteers or do without. At Reach the Beach the local community is woven into the fabric of the event and volunteerism is part of it.

Each N.H. town that the race ambles through directly benefits from the event. This makes them partners in providing support. Local churches, fire stations and other non-profit organizations salt the course with their hospitality. They give runners shelter at exchange points. They provide hot food, drinks, a place to sleep and emotional sustenance to the weary.

One firehouse gets up early to provide hot country breakfasts of pancakes, eggs and bacon to runners. Another provided gratis towels during a rainy leg last year. It is much more than strangers directing traffic. It is neighbors helping neighbors in the old New England tradition.

"Just wanted to say this was by far the BEST race I have ever participated in!! RTB was amazing... your transition crews were wonderful... organized, considerate, cheerful, funny (hats off to T2 for their dance routines which kept everyone laughing!... and to the police offer at T22 who greeted me as I sprinted to the finish with a cheerful "Good Morning Miss!"). Thanks again for a wonderful race."

Local students from the CityYear program are seen staffing the transitions. This is a program where students (18-22 year olds) take a year off after high school and work in various public service projects. Part of their proscribed duties is to help at the Reach the Beach Relay. These helpful teens can be seen late into the night cheering runners into transition zones.

The event is designed by runners for runners. The directors make sure the focus is kept on delivering seamless organization. They make sure the runners have a good experience by taking care of the necessary logistics and by all reports they have done a stellar job. This is one of the reasons that the event is not expanding beyond 300 teams - to keep the logistics under control and to ensure runners get what they need.

Characters welcome!

"THANK YOU (!) to you and your team for an amazing experience this weekend!!! You know that things are going well when your van mates are talking about a return trip before we've even completed the current event. This is the first time that I've participated in an event such as this and I am truly grateful for the experience... a bit fatigued and grateful!"

The race itself is full of characters. You would think that it might be hard to get silly about a 200 mile race, but making it a big party is a big part of the experience for many participants. We all know that you have to be a little cracked to do this long distance running thing! Imagine the eye-rolling you'll get when you tell your friends that you're spending the weekend in a van full of runners, meandering about N.H. running three legs of a 200 mile race!

Teams decorate their vans with all sorts of stuff. They paint the sides with team logos and inspirational messages. Some hang Christmas lights on their vans that flash through the night. One team had a blow-up doll strapped to the roof last year as their mascot. Most have team colors and all have a rip-roaring time!

The race has alternatively been referred to as "a road trip for adults" or "Disneyland for runners". Watching the DVD from last year I thought it looked more like "Woodstock for runners". Any way you want to paint it, the participants have a great time.

An interesting phenomenon, though not unexpected if you think about, is that several romances have been spawned from the event even some marriages. I guess if you can stand 24 hours in a car with someone, you might as well marry them. You'll have your first family road-trip under your belt before the nuptials.

To give the impression that the runners aren't taking the running part of the race seriously would be wrong. Even down through the mid-pack, teams with similar make-ups duel through the whole course. Many of the veteran teams know who their rivals are and strategize to come out in front. Advantageous match-ups are planned and teams continue to pass and be passed day and night. It adds competition to the team spirit and camaraderie.

The logistics are part of the fun

"Thanks a ton the organizers of RTB. We had people from all across the country (all first timers) on our team and they all said the travel was well worth it. They all had a blast. I can't fathom how you are able to coordinate all of the different people involved. Thanks again"

Does running a 200 mile 12 person relay sound like an easily organized task? That's part of the fun at Reach the Beach. Organizing all the people, vans and legs takes on a treasure hunt or orienteering feel. You can enter an Ultra team of 6 runners and in one instance two famous ultra-runners ran it as a two man team.

For a typical team of 12, each of you gets to run 3 of the 36 legs. The legs range from 3.1 miles to 8.8 miles and have varying levels of difficulty (hills). This allows you to match your strong legs to the hard legs, (so to speak). There is a staggered start with the slow teams heading out early and the fast teams starting later to hunt the early teams down. The logistics all depend on forecasting individual and team times closely enough to stay on track throughout the race. It makes for an interesting mélange of subplots within a grander storyline.

Out of area teams fly into Manchester Airport (MHT) or Boston (BOS). About half the teams choose to stay over and participate in the pre-race dinner and festivities.

Most teams find a way to acquire the maximum allowable sized vehicle - a 15 passenger van. If you can rent two of these then you will have enough vehicle room to carry all your stuff and still have room to stretch out for a nap. Some teams do execute the event in minivans or even cars, but it gets fairly tight and smelly late into the race!

Once you have your vehicles, you split your team into two parts. The theory is that while one team is running the other can drive to the 6th transition zone and be sleeping. There is no 'stalking' allowed but the chase vans can pull over to provide support for runners during the legs as long as they can get to the next transition zone before the runner does.

The organizers provide every team with an official book with maps and directions but people still get lost. The runners get lost sometimes too! There is nothing more pitiful than a tired runner wandering around a transition area looking for someone to hand off to! It all adds to the adventure, the craziness and the fun as teams pull together to overcome their logistical shortfalls across 36 race legs.

Sponsors participate

Sponsors for the RTB event include Eastern Mountain Sports and Timberland. This sets up a synergistic relationship that really adds to the quality of the event. The promotion of New Hampshire parks, towns and beauty fits in nicely with the corporate credo of two local companies immersed in outdoor adventure provisioning. Instead of just shelling out money for not-so-subtle advertising slots they work closely with the race directors for common success.

At the start and finish areas you will find the "Raise the Roof" bus from EMS that has a portable climbing wall for runners to test out demo gear. Timberland also has their outdoor equipment set up for evaluating and testing by all those active-out-doorsy runners.

Mountains, moguls, leaves and lakes

"I had an excellent time or my second year! Thanks so much or continuing to organize an excellent race that showcases so much of NH's natural beauty!"

The course is beautiful. As previously noted there are 36 legs of varying lengths and difficulty. These legs meander through the state of New Hampshire exploring several state parks, 31 picturesque towns, the White Mountains and the Lakes Region. I particularly like the concept of the first leg that runs you straight up the slope of one of Bretton Wood's ski mountains and down again. 1500 feet of vertical gain and loss right out of the gate. This sets the tone for the race to come.

The White mountains of New Hampshire are picturesque, tree covered granite peaks. The highest and most prominent peak is Mt. Washington in the presidential range. You'll be relieved to note that the race does not run up and over any of the mountains, but there are a few legs that have some challenging elevation gain (and loss). You will get an excellent view of Washington as you come down route 302.

The race is timed in late September to take advantage of the fall foliage. You will be treated to a backdrop patina of flame orange maples and bright yellow birches as you descend from the interior to the beach. The course also skirts the shores of several scenic lakes in the lakes region including Winnipesauke.

The towns are like postcards with their rolling farms, 200 year old graveyards, public greens and white steepled churches. You'll feel like you've run through a time warp holding hands with Norman Rockwell. Since a big part of the reason for the race is to benefit New Hampshire state parks, the race runs through several. The final legs come to the ocean and run along its shore into the finish.

This journey will give you a great appreciation for the beauty of New Hampshire.

End of the road

"Thank you for such an incredible race! NEWBIES by the DOZEN will need a new name for RTB 2006 - I know I will be back for more! What a to catch up on some lost Zzzzzzzz's! CHEERS to all my team mates and our SUPER CAPTAIN, Marcia!"

And in the end…all the vans and teams converge when they 'reach the beach'. The beach is Hampton Beach in N.H. There is a big post race party and meal. All the teams sprawl about on the beach looking rumpled, happy and tired. New friends and old they all celebrate their accomplishment and most swear to return next year.

You too can be part of the happening this year. You can do something worth remembering. Join a team and Reach the Beach!



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