The Fred Brown Relay Around Lake Winnipesaukee: The Must-Do Relay
Take the Johnny Appleseed of our sport, mix in the Chief of Police of Barnstable, Massachusetts and combine them both with the second oldest running club in our nation and what do you get? The Fred Brown Relay Around Lake Winnipesaukee!
Posted Tuesday, 26 June, 2007
Whether you are veteran runner or a newbie to the sport you owe it to yourself to participate in the Fred Brown Relay Around Lake Winnipesaukee. This is one of the must-do races in New England. On the checklist of great races it is right up there with the Boston Marathon, Falmouth Road Race, Mt. Washington Auto Road Run and a host of other great New England events.
The exhilaration you will experience when you and your teammates move a baton 65 miles around New Hampshire’s biggest lake is unmatched. Ask any veteran of this event and I guarantee you will get an earful of how much fun they had participating in the Fred Brown Relay Around Lake Winnipesaukee. If you love to run and enjoy being on a team, you must do this “Must-Do” relay.
Enjoyment for All
“The Winnipesaukee Relay is a great event,” says Dave LaBrode race director of the Bobby Bell Road Race and one of the organizers behind the Mill Cities Relay. “Once a runner gets over that this event is not only for fast runners, but for everyone they’ll have a great time.” Co-race director Kris Gleason agrees, “My entire family has been on a team.”
This year’s event will take place on Saturday September 22 from Fun Spot located at Weirs Beach near the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. The location makes this a great event for the entire family. Fun Spot offers all kinds of games and activities for the kids.
Make it a day trip or a weekend experience
Lake Winnipesaukee is just a two-hour drive from Boston making it commutable in one day. If you don't want to drive up and back in one day consider staying the entire weekend. The race conveniently falls in between the peak summer and leaf peeping seasons so accommodations are plentiful and very reasonable.
Following the race there is an awards ceremony and distinctive glassware is awarded to winning teams. Later that evening there’s an unofficial bash at the Smokehouse restaurant. New Hampshire recently instituted a new second hand smoke law making it illegal to smoke in bars and restaurants so the Smoke House will be smoke free.
Extremely Well Organized
Organizing an event that passes through seven towns over sixty-five miles is no easy assignment, but the North Medford Club makes sure everything runs smooth so you can make the most of your running experience. “We meet and plan all year round,” says co-race director Kris Gleason.
No detail is left to chance. The course is extremely well marked thanks to Jeff Gould and Steve Penny. They arrive a few days early to marked the course and ensure you don’t take a wrong turn. All the longer legs contain water stops, and shuttle buses are provided at any leg that does not have parking. Results for each team and each leg segment are scored.
This year the race will start and finish at the lower parking lot of Fun Spot. This area contains barbeque pits for those groups who enjoy tailgating following the race. T-shirts are also given to all entrants with the famous loon logo. However Gleason is not revealing the color of this year’s shirt. That is a well guarded North Medford secret.
The Course: Challenging and Spectacular
With beautiful lake vistas, cascading mountains off in the distance and quaint New Hampshire villages along the way the scenery along the course is spectacular. Every turn contains another beautiful view or nugget of interest.
The first leg of the relay brings you through the Weirs Beach boardwalk area. This collection of restaurants, bars and arcades is an area frozen in time looking much like it did in the 1930’s. If you look out across Weirs Bay you will see Stonedam Island, the Ossipee mountains, the Sandwich range, and Mt. Chocorua. This 10.7-mile leg concludes at Arlberg Ski shop at the base of Gunstock Ski area.
The second leg is the longest leg of the relay at eleven miles, but it is worth every step. This leg contains one of the best views you will get of the south side of the lake. The leg begins with some challenging terrain, but all your hard work will be rewarded with a gentle downward journey to the bandstand and baton exchange at Alton Bay.
The third leg is perhaps the most special leg of the entire relay. This 9.3-mile leg is where the legendary Bay Hill Road is located. For about three quarters of a mile all you’ll get to see is the road rising in front of you as you negotiate this 11-percent climb. It takes a very special runner to run the entire distance of Bay Hill – most walk. You will want to put your mountain running shoes on for this 9.3-mile challenge.
The fourth leg goes from Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro to the Abenaki Ski Area also in Wolfeboro. This leg is relatively flat and is perfect for newbie’s or for someone coming off an injury. There is no parking at Abenaki Ski Area so shuttle buses are provided back to Kingswood Regional High School where there is ample parking. A word of warning – when passing through downtown Wolfeboro you need to stay on the sidewalk whenever possible. Police do take notice and it is important to abide by the rules set down by the local authorities.
The fifth leg is 10.8-miles and runs primarily through the wooded area of Wolfeboro and Tuftonboro finishing at picturesque Morgan Farm. No parking or traffic is allowed through the farm so shuttle buses are provided. However if you don’t mind jogging a mile or so you can park and hike to the exchange zone. Morgan Farm is surrounded by beautiful meadows and the foothills of the White Mountains are in clear view.
The sixth leg is perhaps the fastest leg of the entire relay. This 6.4-mile run is primarily downhill. Sure you’ll have to negotiate a bit of uphill at the start and then again towards the end, but the majority of the run is downhill. The leg concludes with a dramatic downhill slope to the Moultonboro School. You will look like the Flash when you blaze through this baton exchange area.
In the seventh leg all the flat running of leg 4 is negated. This 8.5-mile leg contains no flat area at all. Fortunately every time you climb up you are immediately rewarded with a run down. The leg ends with a downhill run to Interlakes High School in Meredith.
The eighth and final leg is just a mere 4.4-miles but these final miles have made champions of some teams while others have crumbled into oblivion. The scenery on the final leg is some of the best you will see along the entire route. However keep in mind that you will pay a dear price for this view. Don’t be fooled by the first half mile that leads you down into Meredith center. All the gains you make here are immediately gone as you climb two major hills (read: mountains) to the finish. As you struggle up the hills your teammates will rejoice that it’s you running and not them. The last leg will end in Fun Spot’s lower parking lot where the partying begins.
The Johnny Appleseed of Running
Hard to believe it has been fifteen years since the passing of the legendary Fred Brown, Sr. As the patriarch and founder of the North Medford Club, Brown was also the founder of the Lake Winnipesaukee Relay along with countless other events that dotted the running landscape of New England over the past seventy-five years.
If there was a lifetime achievement award for outstanding race directing it would surely bear the name of Fred Brown. Many consider Brown the Johnny Appleseed of running because during his lifetime he organized well over 4000 races and promoted the sport endlessly in an era when runners were considered plodders and races were far and few between. A fierce competitor himself, competing in over 2000 races, Brown along with a handful of other New England organizers such as Jock Semple, Bob Campbell and Walter Childs kept the sport alive before the running boom of the 1980’s arrived.
Mention the name of Fred Brown to anyone who has been running for more than twenty-five years in New England and you are bound to get a big smile followed by at least one classic Fred Brown story. Brown was part Dave McGillivray, part Bill Belichick, part Jim Fowler and part Mr. Magoo all rolled into one incredible individual.
Besides running, Fred had a love for animals – especially cats. He was known to rescue cats from the local animal shelter and when you visited his home it was not unusual to be greeted by as many as thirty of the felines.
Frequently the name “Kelly Brown” would appear in the Boston Globe’s race results for the weekly Fresh Pond races. The Globe required at least three finishers in the race to print the results. When only two women finished, Brown would add the name of his dog Kelly to the list. This practice is still carried on by today’s organizers of the weekly race. The North Medford Club makes a donation to the Humane Society in Fred’s honor each year.
I fondly remember running the handicap events Fred held in the seventies. The price was $1 if you did not want a trophy and $2 if you wanted a chance to win a trophy. If you selected the trophy option and were lucky enough to win, Fred would rummage through the truck of his car for an award. The trophy would always be a recycled award he had won at some point in his life.
However, the reason there is even a Lake Winnipesaukee Relay at all is another Fred Brown story in itself . . .
The Chief of Police of Barnstable, Massachusetts
Prior to the Lake Winnipesaukee Relay Fred organized the now fabled Plymouth Rock to Provincetown Relay from 1974 until it demise in 1988. The relay came to an abrupt end because the now deceased Chief of Police of Barnstable tired of skinny runners watering the lawns of local residences so he forbade the race to pass through his town.
Unfortunately for Fred, Barnstable stretches across the entire width of Cape Cod where the relay was run. Not wanting to add a swimming leg to the relay the race was moved to Lake Winnipesaukee in 1989 where it has remained since. Even though this is the 19th year that the race has been held at Lake Winnipesaukee, it is the 34th year that the North Medford Club has organized the event making it one of the oldest continuous relays in the country.
The North Medford Club
Founded in 1933 the North Medford Club is the second oldest running club in America after the Boston Athletic Association (BAA). Both clubs have played a vital role in the development of the sport of distance running.
The North Medford Club has strived to maintain the New England tradition of low cost, no frills racing. Whether it is the hosting of small local races or the organizing of larger events like the relay, North Medford still adheres to the grass roots approach laid down by Fred Brown many years ago. The relay is a prime example of this approach; the event accepts no sponsorship money and is run as a non-profit.
There is little doubt that the North Medford Club has cemented its role as the premiere development running club in the U.S. and played an important part in making running a mainstream sport.
Start Planning Now!
For most participants the race around the lake begins weeks or even months earlier. This is a team event that requires five to eight member teams, so planning is important to a successful experience. All your friends are potential teammates, so start lining up your fellow clubmates, co-workers, family and friends for a running experience that will last a lifetime. Don’t miss this year’s Fred Brown Relay Around Lake Winnipesaukee. It is a Must-Do relay!