Applefest Half Marathon and Half Marathon Relay
Fun fest at Applefest. Excitement, enjoyment, tradition—run your best at one of the best-run road races in the USA. Applefest is, well, Applefest! Once you run it, you will know exactly why that is such a compliment.
Posted Sunday, 27 August, 2006
The twenty-fourth annual Applefest Half Marathon and the fourth Applefest Half Marathon Relay will run Saturday, September 30 in historic, scenic, beautiful Hollis. This is truly one of the very best road races, and we do not say that lightly. Proven over time, this race covers all details and provides a tremendous racing experience for all participants. It was an outstanding event in its inaugural of 1983, and it has gotten better every year since. This is road racing as it should be—presented by dedicated runners for dedicated runners who want a truly enjoyable race.
Applefest is most famous for four components: A wonderfully scenic and challenging course, the tremendous number and quality of awards (including commemorative awards for all finishers and five-year awards), unique single age records, and simply wonderful, unbelievably tasty and plentiful post race food. You could call it Applefeast. Additionally there are outstanding facilities, cash awards for individuals and teams, unique long sleeve T-shirts, chip timing and rapid results, helpful and enthusiastic volunteers, theme water stops every two miles (manned by energetic and inspiring students competing for your vote), shuttle buses to-from the relay handoff, and shuttles from-to parking, outstanding and supportive sponsorship, and much, much more.
Hollis is a rural New Hampshire town on the Massachusetts border, just west of Nashua. It is a rural village where apples, strawberries, and vegetables--and the farms that produce them--are still a large part of the town’s culture, landscape, and economy. The Applefest course runs through it all on rolling, wooded country roads, alongside orchards and farms on a two loop course.
Registration—On Line and On Time
Please note you must sign up for this race in advance —individual and two-person relay—and you must register on-line. There is no race day registration. Packet and T-shirt pick up on Friday evening, September 29th (5:30 to 8:00 p.m.), and again on race day morning (beginning at 7:00 a.m. for a 10:00 a.m. start) will be at the Hollis Brookline High School, also the site of the start, finish, and post race awards and food fest. Again, registration will not be available in person either Friday or Saturday during check in. Check the Website for directions and accommodations.
You can save money on registration by signing up early, but that may be a moot point. Registration is well ahead of last year for both events, and both sold out early last year. Supply and demand at work—this is such an outstanding event, and there are only 1,200 individual bib numbers and 150 relay team slots available, and that is a fact. Demand stays high because of so many repeat participants. Year after year runners return to run this event, a highlight on the calendar.
Beautiful, Challenging Course
The course provides a tour of the historic village center, scattered residences, Silver Lake State Park, historic barns, fields, orchards, farm stands, and rural vistas. Although hilly in places, the views make the moderate hills seem mild. The course is USATF-certified, and actually net downhill.
No one associated with Applefest will tell you it is an easy course, but it is a fair, changing, rolling, and very inspiring, interesting course. There have been outstanding times there. It is the same for all runners. It is very spectator-friendly (views at start, finish, 2 miles, and 11.3 within easy reach for walkers). And it is beautiful.
It starts at the beautiful Hollis Brookline High School, a state-of-the-art facility that includes showers and changing facilities for all runners. The course exits the high school grounds with a left turn (north) on Pepperell Road, Route 122, and Main Street for a quick right turn through Monument Square. This portion goes past historic homes, the meeting house (historic site), and the Hollis Town Hall. The designated Historic District includes over 100 homes and buildings. The course turns south on Depot Road—once the direct route from the village center to the railroad depot in the southeast corner of town. (Note there is an outstanding rail trail there now which runs 17.4 miles through neighboring Dunstable, Pepperell, and Groton to Ayer, Massachusetts. It is an outstanding location for traffic free running.)
There is a two-mile loop that includes Depot Road and a ¼ mile incline on Merrill Lane back to the high School. Then it continues north on Main Street and Silver Lake Road (Route 122), with a nice downhill section at 3 miles, approaching the 80-acre Silver Lake State Park. The park is on both sides of the road, with the 34-acre Silver Lake on the left.
The upper loop is broad and wide open for the crowded early miles, while the lower loop is mostly shaded country roads, and tinged with the bright colors of autumn.
Just beyond four miles, the course turns right on South Merrimack Road. The intersection of these two roads is historic. There stood a general store, shoemaker and cooper shops, and a blacksmith. And in more recent times, it was the original home of 24-year sponsor Mile High Apple Pies (now located on Amherst Street, Route 101A). They bake that wonderful apple crisp that is so popular at the post-race celebration. Miles four through five are very scenic, with wooded hills and farms; at 5.7 the course turns right again on Nevins Road.
Just beyond the 10K mark, at the intersection of Nevins and Farley, the relay handoff point will be a beehive of activity. Runners go straight ahead on Farley Road. From six to 7.5, the course is very flat and straight, with mixed pine and hardwood forest. At 7.7 the course turns right on Wheeler Road for a mild 2/10 incline, with the 8-mile mark just beyond the crest. From mile 8 to nine, it is again mostly flat.
Just beyond nine miles, as Wheeler makes a pronounced right at the fork, there is a steep 100-meter hill, the first of the three “Wheeler Hills”. From 9 to 10.4 there is a series of hills and rolls, gradually climbing back to higher ground toward the village center. At 10.7 Wheeler ends on Broad Street (Route 130) with a right turn to the 11-mile mark located directly in front of 24-year sponsor Brookdale Farms. (Brookdale Farms is an institution in Hollis, and has been for generations. They provide the wonderful fruit baskets for the age group winners, and the array of fruit for the post race food fest.)
Broad Street takes runners back through the village center, retracing some of the earlier course through Monument Square and Depot Road. The 12 mile mark is just before that Merrill Lane incline, and mid way up Merrill marks 20K, with only a kilometer left to return to the high school and the finish mat. Rewards await.
The Fourth Annual Applefest Relay
The Applefest Half Marathon Relay starts at the same time as the individual half marathon, and runs the very same course. The first team member runs a net downhill course to the 6.4-mile mark, and the second runner speeds through a net uphill course, 6.7 miles. The second runner gets the hills, but they often feel more energized by being much fresher and faster than those running the full 13.1. In any case the competition among the relay teams has become a highlight of the event overall.
The relay offers runners a chance to participate in an outstanding event, even though they may not be ready for 13.1 miles. And they can “practice” for next year. But the relay has become a separate competition, with a $100 cash prize to the first female, male, and mixed teams. Relay awards include the famous Applefest medals and Mile High Apple Pies for the top three teams-female, male, and mixed—in the open, masters, and senior divisions.
Gear bags are taken by bus along with the runners, and the first leg runners will get back in time for the finish. Note: Relay runners also wear chips, and buses to-from the handoff are mandatory. Both runners enjoy the post race celebration and the fantastic spread of food.
All finishers receive a special commemorative award. Cash awards will be presented to the top three women and men--$300, $200, and $100. There are many other awards, including five year age groups (15 and under to 70 and over), weight divisions, local top three women and men, and cash prizes for overall winners. (There is also an $800 bonus for a winning course record. The women’s record by Patti Laliberte is 1:18: 22, set in the very first race. The men’s record by Dave Dunham, 1:06:07, was set in 1992 in one of his three victories at Applefest.)
The top three overall and the top runners in each age group take home a beautiful medal and an enormous fruit basket. Second and third in each age division win a beautiful medal and the famous Mile High Apple Pies. The top three Fillies and Clydesdales receive pies and medals, as do the top three residents of Hollis or Brookline.
Signature Feature--Single Age Records
One of the most fascinating and unique features of Applefest is the single age records. From the beginning there have been records kept for participants of every age. Those who set a record receive a beautifully embroidered Applefest shirt, a real keepsake. Age records are on the books for ages 10 to 83. In some years there have been as many as 10 records set. Last year there were five.
There are six surviving women’s records from the inaugural race in 1983, including the top two times ever by Laliberte and Susan Lupica (1:19:07). There are three surviving men’s marks from 1983.
Carrie Parsi of Gloucester, Massachusetts holds 10 women’s records, including 1:54:07 for age 66 set in last years race. She likely would have had two more, but for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps.
Carlton Mendell of Maine holds 11 men’s records, the latest being 3:00:56 last year for age 83 in the 2004 event. Sue LaChance has won five times, more than any other woman, and set five still-standing age group records in the process. Dave Parsel of Costa Mesa California holds six records, and has won outright twice and won his age group five other times. Check past results and age records on the Website.
Post Race Food
Volunteers pride themselves on the quality, quantity, variety, and presentation of the post race food. Driven by a dedicated Food Committee (one of the most creative and hardest working of such committees), the food tent is always filled with outstanding fare for hungry runners. The apple crisp alone is enough to rave about, but it’s just the beginning. Pies, brownies, cookies, fruit, yogurt, juice, and a myriad of other goodies grace the tables. Runners reap the benefits of this dedicated effort.
Ed Baker of Boston defended his 2004 title, and improved on his 2004 time with a 1:09:56 last year, the fastest time in over a decade. Tamela Lynch won the women’s title with a 1:31:03, and exciting 11-second victory over Kristin Hall. Ann Benoit Rasmussen, formerly a member of the host Gate City Striders, finished third overall. Lynch and Rasmussen are both masters. Outstanding age group performances included Parsel, who won the senior division with 1:17:42, and Ron Kita of the host Striders with a 1:28:40 victory in the veterans division. Parsi and Imme Dyson of Princeton, New Jersey went 1-2 in the 65-69 division, both with outstanding times for age records. Check past results on the Website, including some outstanding relay performances.
Nothing Like It in the World
Taking all the combined aspects, quality, and attention to detail, I know of no other race with so many wonderful and unique features. It is not just the course, but the quality of the scenery. It is not just the number of awards, but the unique type and quality of the awards. It’s not just that there is a commemorative award for all, but that it is memorable and chosen with care. It’s not just post race food, but an extravagant spread of unique and tasty treats—exceeded by no other in quality and quantity. Yes, quality is an apt description of the entire effort, the entire organization. The end result is an outstanding race for you. Applefest is Applefest--by runners, for runners, and with exceptional pride and dedication.