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home > races/results > usa: new hampshire > 25th hollis applefest half marathon and relay– a postcard of classic new england running

25th Hollis Applefest Half Marathon and Relay– A postcard of classic New England running
Beautiful course, great food and lots of prizes make this fall party a must-run.

25th Hollis Applefest Half Marathon and Relay– A postcard of classic New England running

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By Christopher Russell
Posted Monday, 12 March, 2007

Find out what 1500 runners already know about this classic autumn event. The Applefest Half Marathon continues to sell out early every year, because those who run it once almost always come back! You’d be wise to act fast and register now for this classy and classic New England Fall ½ Marathon Saturday - October 6, 2007 - 10am - Hollis, NH

Here you will find a very popular and nicely balanced ½ marathon and 2-person marathon relay.

"My favorite race of the year"- NH Runners Magazine

What is it about this race that gives it such staying power in a fall race calendar packed with more events every year? Why do participants from all over the USA flock to the hamlet of Hollis, NH each year like swallows returning to Capistrano? Because the AppleFest folks have found a formula that works!

It’s a simple formula. It’s a successful recipe that has been cooking up a blatantly successful local event for 25 years. Take a picturesque New England Hamlet, historic and untouched by time; add in a tough-but-not-too-tough scenic course. Marinade for 25 years in a froth of dedicated runners, volunteers and sponsors. Sprinkle liberally with fantastic food and prizes. Throw in a couple shakes of competition. Bake on high in the golden glow of the New England autumn sun…remove and discard the hassle…and Voila! You’ve got one of the most consistently satisfying ½ marathons ever.

It’s the stuff that memories are made from…
The Applefest Half Marathon is one of the best because it truly epitomizes the spirit of the New England Autumn Season!! The scenic route exposes the runner to the beautiful foliage, mums, pumpkins, and other fall decorations that highlight the New England landscape during this season of peak foliage! And Fall in New England is all about apple picking! I moved here from the South 2 years ago, and I was told early on that I needed to run the Applefest Half Marathon, have some apple fritters, and then go apple picking in Hollis.

The first year the race was sold out when I heard of it, but I still went apple picking in Hollis. This past year, my daughter, her friend, and I went to Hollis, I ran, then we all had apple fritters and went to some of the local farms, shopping for apple products and Autumn decorations, and apple and pumpkin picking! I have a beautiful arrangement of pictures in my den, framed in Autumn decor, of various snapshots of our trio around the Hollis farms. In the picture, I am wearing my Applefest Half Marathon shirt.

Nowhere in this country have I seen communities decorate and celebrate Autumn the way New Englanders do. Thanks for the most enjoyable event!
- Judy Graham-Garcia, Stratham, NH

Destination race? You bet!
If you were to close your eyes and I was to say “New England scene in autumn”, what picture would emerge? That picture would probably look a lot like Hollis NH. Maybe you picture white farm houses with red barns. Maybe you see golden green pastures and hay fields waving in the waning sun. Maybe you see deep maple and white pine forests just starting their riotous turn to the colors of fall. Maybe you see lichen covered stone walls delineating 300 year old fields or fresh cold streams and ponds.

That’s Hollis. Rolling hills wrapped in 300 year old fields. You will still see the working apple orchards, rows lined with crates to receive the ripening red fruit from heavily burdened trees. The sweet smell of cut hay grass and ripe fruit will tickle your noses

"One of the top 50 New England Races" - New England Runner

Like all pastoral communities the autumn time has always been a time of fatness and celebration of the harvest. A local festival was held where all the farmers gathered. They celebrated the harvest with robust baked apple pies and sundry other treats. Maybe the local lads organized an impromptu foot race to mark the event.

Hollis brings back these sylvan days. Heck, if you could talk the volunteers into colonial garb you might think you were time traveling! This is part of the reason the Applefest ½ marathon gets folks from all over the USA – many returning each year with their families to make it part of a New England fall vacation.

A course to remember!
This is one of those races where everything comes together and is complimentary. The course is a great combination of scenery and challenge. It’s very well balanced. The ½ marathon distance is becoming more popular ever year. The growing running population is looking for something challenging, but don’t necessarily want to train for a marathon.

This race course takes runners through classic New England autumn scenery, and for me it has the additional attraction that it covers roads I ran on decades ago for high school cross-country practice.
- Steve Lynn, Brattleboro VT

This course is a good one because it gives you a challenge, but it is not overwhelming. It is suited for many ability levels. For racers it has some great topography elements that you can wrap race strategy around. For a milder participant it has challenge and beauty to make the miles flow by. The typical weather is mild – great running temps. At one point there is a lone bag piper off the course for a memorable image.

A couple features of this course stood out for me while I was running it. (I would recommend biking it before the race.) There’s a good description on the website. Knowing the course will help you immensely. Overall it felt like the first bit was down hill, the middle bit was flat and the end was up hill. That’s what it felt like. If you look at the topography it is a typical New England rolling hills course (that we all train on every day).

I remember struggling to hold back on some steep down hills early, then enjoying a nice conversational flat bit by Silver Lake. Then I remember staring up a number of steep hills after the nine mile mark, and passing some folks who were wheezing along. After these we emerged into the open in Hollis town center with people on front porches yelling encouragement across the town green.

I remember thinking the finish was close and I began to pass people on a nice long flat piece through town. Then, to my surprise, I turned a corner after mile 12 and was looking at another ¼ mile hill! I crashed a little, recovering enough to push through to the finish. Lesson learned!

The 2-person relay runs the same course and the exchange is roughly in the middle. This is cool because that means your first runner gets the down hill part and your second runner gets the up hill bits!

"One of the best footraces in New England" - Hockomock Swamp Rat

A feast at the fest!
The race organizers take great pleasure and pride in their race party and food. As I said before, the reason the Applefest works is that all its individual pieces are complimentary. In this way the food compliments the scenery and the time of year.

Along with their medals, the top three age group winners get a mile high apple pie or an enormous fruit basket. (Not one of those industrial supermarket pies, a real local baked apple work of art.) The finish line feast includes the famous apple crisp, a sugary confection of apples and crumbly, crunchiness.

The finish party also lays out many other delicacies as local volunteers provide baked goods. You may have to run another 20k just to make up for the food you’re going to eat at the end of the race!

Praise for prizes!
The best thing that happened for me at last year’s Applefest…was my family's surprise party at the finish. I turned 50 the next day!
- Sheila Blunt

Do you want cool prizes or lots of them? Either way you’re covered at the Applefest. In addition to cash prizes for the overall winners, the Applefest has prize categories that will make you head spin. There are 5 year age group prizes. There is Clydesdale and Filly. Most famously there is an individual course record for each age. If you can set the course record for your age, you’ll get a nice embroidered sweatshirt with your name, time, “Applefest” and “Course Record”.

You will get a custom finisher’s medal and new this year a long sleeve technical race tee. (Have you noticed that race tees are getting nicer?) All of this schwag for $36 bucks if you register by the end of April. Or you can sit home envious and lonely while your running club buddies prance about in their cool Applesfest stuff. The choice is yours…

It’s all about the organization!
I’m not talking about a crime family here – more like a running family. The same folks at the Gate City Striders have been putting on this race for 25 years. The same three main sponsors have remained unchanged for 25 years (Brookdale Farms, New England County Pies and Kerk Motion Products).

The thing I like best about the Applefest half marathon is the water stations. Each year the volunteers dress up and each station has a theme. The volunteers are enthusiastic and encouraging. Most of the water station volunteers are teenagers and it is refreshing (no pun intended!!) to see such a nice group of kids helping out!
- Mary Sullivan

You can tell by the quality of the race organization that this is a veteran team that has been playing together for a long time. The race was has always been “by runners for runners” and it shows in the organization. You can relax because they’ve got it covered.

There is excellent traffic control and course marking (big mile markers) with ChampionChip timing and ample course monitors. There are water stops every 2 miles. 4 of the water stops compete for runner voted best. In the past they have manifested as pirates, a NASCAR pit crew and a Hawaiian beach scene. There is Gatorade at the half-way mark. This year there will be energy bars provided Snickers.

The Civil Air Patrol is out in force on the course and the Girl Scouts will manage your bags for you. They will bus you from parking to the start and back. It’s all like a well oiled machine. Massage – Lockers – Showers – everything is covered. No hassle – you just show up, let yourself be pampered and run.

Packet pick up is Friday night and early Saturday morning at the Hollis Brookline High School. There is going to be an EXPO this year too on Friday night and a pasta dinner.

Fast people too!
It’s not all eating and looking at the pretty scenery. Each year a core of local thoroughbreds comes to race. Last year Eric Beaucheane from Chelmsford won the race with a 1:12:20. A nice 5:31 pace on this course. Diona Fulton from Somerville took first place for the women with a 1:23:41. Dave Dunham still holds the course record from 1992 with a 1:06:07! It makes sense that a mountain runner like Dave would like this course!

Each year many runners from the local clubs, including a contingent from the BAA come to Hollis to race. Race officials have a forward observer following the lead pack on a bicycle and relaying the play by play to the finish line. The announcer keeps up a running commentary. It’s fun; the crowd knows how the race is progressing.

Some things to remember!
Because this is such a well organized and popular race there are some basic things to remember.

  • Sign up early because it always sells out
  • Only on-line registration
  • No walkers in this race – the course closes after 3 hours
  • You can’t park at the school – so get there early and allow time for a short shuttle

All of this is so that you the runner have no delays, no hassles and a perfect race experience.

Get there early; bring whatever you need to hang around until the start. There is a separate locked gym for your gear with only one door off the main gym which is guarded by vigilant Girl Scouts. Your gear is safe with them once you check it.

Experience what New England fall racing is supposed to be!
Come up to Hollis. N.H. on October 6th 2007. You’ll be joining 1500 other lucky runners who had the foresight to sign up early for this gem of a ½ marathon. Don’t miss out. Put The Hollis Half Marathon and Relay on your fall calendar for October 6th 2007.



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