The Boston Prep Derry 16 Miler—The Ideal Race at the Right Time. Are You Ready?
Originally planned as a tune-up/training run for the Boston Marathon—and it is—this race has become a New England winter classic in its own right.
Posted Sunday, 28 October, 2007
The Boston Prep 16 Miler in Derry, New Hampshire, will run on Sunday, January 27, beginning at 10:00 a.m. through the rural pastoral roads of the historic old town. It is exactly right on the calendar, easy to get to (only 45 minutes from Boston and minutes from Manchester via Interstate 93), superbly well organized, and yes, it is moderately challenging.
New England runners are tough, and they pride themselves on running into and through the winter. And spring marathoners must, of course, run this distance at this time. And they need to run a challenging 16 miles to prepare. The Greater Derry Track Club has prepared an ideal venue and perfect course to solve this, and they have been doing a terrific job with the event for all of those 13 years. It will once again be chip timed, including splits on mats at 5, 10, and half marathon in addition to the finish.
This year amenities include a beautiful zippered turtleneck tech shirt—and we thought they couldn’t improve on that great shirt from last year! And there will be a unique finisher’s medal. But I warn you—it will sell out at 800. And another note of caution, do not run it if you cannot complete the course in three hours. The course will be shut down in fairness to all concerned, especially those fantastic volunteers who stand in the cold January wind. And just in case New England winter kicks into snow-storm mode, the alternate date will be February 3.
Race headquarters, registration, bib number, T-shirt, chip pickup will be at the Derry Village Elementary School on Route 28, located just north of—and adjacent to--West Running Brook Middle School, the race finish line. The race start will again be on Humphrey Road, near Running Brook, the little stream made famous by Robert Frost, who owned the abutting farm and walked the same road to teach at Pinkerton in Derry. This will be the thirteenth annual edition of this wintertime classic.
Greater Derry Track Club
The Greater Derry Track Club takes great pride in the quality of this race. They deserve the accolades. Putting on a race of this size and complexity is a significant accomplishment for this club, a small but dynamic, energetic group. Race Director Dave Breeden is entering his seventh year at the helm. Fortunately they have provided the New England running community with a high quality event. Well done!
The Greater Derry Track Club was founded in 1978. They are one of the outstanding clubs in the Granite State, and members of the Mill Cities Alliance, USA Track and Field, and the RRCA. They sponsor several community races and a children’s running program. They have created a gem with this event. Check the Website at www.gdtc.org
“Moderately Challenging” Course
Running this course along mostly rural roads with farms, fields, and quaint village center, you certainly won’t recognize that you are in the fourth largest municipality in New Hampshire, and minutes away from a major metro area. It is idyllic with distinctive stone walls and colonial structures. It is picturesque throughout, and a fair challenge in the Granite State.
As most experienced New England distance runners know by now, this race is among the toughest because of where the hills are—just like Boston. The course is up and down, yes, but the highest point in the town of Derry is Warner Hill at only 605 feet. The climb of Warner Hill (also known as Antennae Hill) is long, and begins late in the race. And there are a lot of rolling hills before that. But this is a loop course after all, and the finish is only slightly higher than the start. Hill training is good. Contrary to popular belief, this course really is moderate. It is certainly not flat, but neither is it a mountain race. And we need challenges. Running 16 miles is not easy. If it were, everyone would do it. But it is terrific to run this challenge with such great organization and support-- well organized, scenic, exciting, and perfect on the training calendar. It is different; it is preparation for the Boston Marathon.
The start is on Humphrey Road just south of West Running Brook Middle School, just off Route 28, at 10 a.m. sharp. It is only 100 yards from West Running Brook.
The course heads east on Humphrey, between fields and farms and those stone walls, also prominent in Frost’s work. At ½ mile, the course turns right on Cemetery Road, and shortly thereafter crosses West Running Brook.
At 7/10ths, the course turns left on Island Pond Road and begins a gradual upgrade for half a mile, turning right on Lawrence Road at 1.5. The course bears left at the fork onto Stark Road, named for General John Stark of Revolutionary War fame (1728-1822). Note the stone that marks his birthplace on the right just 2/10ths after turning on Stark Road.
A left on Gervais (2.5) takes runners through a pretty, quiet neighborhood, followed by a right on Mill Road at 3.3. Here the course crosses the beautiful State Recreational Rail Trail, which runs from Windham Depot through Derry to Sandown. At 4.3 there is a left on Stark, followed by a quick left on Kilrea Road and a small hill. The field passes miles five and six on Kilrea, including a nice downhill just beyond five and a beautiful hemlock grove on both sides at 5.5. The course turns right on Gulf Road at 6.2 and enjoys some rolling downhill.
A left on Bartlett at 7.1 followed by another left on island Pond 2/10ths later provides a flat stretch. The relative flat continues with a right at eight miles on North Shore Road, a very quiet stretch. A left on Drew Hill Road at 9.1 gives you exactly that, a short but steep little grade.
Just beyond the fire station the course turns right on Warner Hill Road, passing 10 just after the turn. The long climb begins on Warner Hill Road approaching the 11-mile mark. It starts from one of the lower points on the course, just after crossing the rail trail again. The big hill is behind you by 12 miles, followed by a left on Floyd Road at 12.3. Just before 13 miles, the course turns right on Lane Road, and provides one of the flattest and nicest sections from 13 to the previous finish at 14.1 miles. It is flat, with fields and farms on both sides.
At 14.2 you enter the village of East Derry, turning left on Hampstead Road, passing colonial houses, the Upper Village Hall, the general store, the quaint library, and the Civil war monument. The course turns left on Cemetery Road at 14.6. The 15-mile mark is just beyond the end of the cemetery. The last mile is along this flat road, with a right on familiar Humphrey Road with its stone walls and fields. As you turn right from Humphrey onto Route 28, there is just over a tenth to go. The right at the light at the top of the grade takes you to the finish at West Running Brook School.
The Frost Farm is less than a mile south of the race start and finish, on Route 28 (in his day known as the Londonderry Turnpike). The four-time Pulitzer Prize winner passed Humphrey Road, West Running Brook, and what is now the Derry Village School on his way to teach at Pinkerton Academy. He was a poultry farmer, and also taught English and Literature at Pinkerton, now America’s largest private preparatory school (and Derry’s High School). It is also one of the oldest private academies in the USA (1814).
West Running Brook was once the boundary of Robert Frost’s farm. He made this brook famous in his poem of the same name, “West Running Brook”, and he also published a book of poems with that title. Frost was apparently fascinated by this stream, which seems to run contrary to nature by running west when the ocean is east.
Awards and Post Race Celebration
Awards go to the top three overall and top three in all 10-year age groups through 70+. There are also awards three deep for open and master Fillies, and open and master Clydesdales.
There will be a plentiful spread of post race refreshments to reload, including really good, hot soup, fruit, and baked goods and other refreshments that hit the spot.
Derry is conveniently located just off Interstate 93 about 45 minutes north of Boston and 15 minutes south of Manchester. Take exit 4 off I-93, Route 102 east through town (Derry is a town, not a city). You will come to a traffic circle in east Derry at the intersection of Routes 102 and 28; go right or south on route 28, and Derry Village School will be a half mile on the left. Derry is only minutes from the Boston Manchester Regional Airport, located in neighboring Londonderry.
Derry is named for the city in Northern Ireland, and is said to be where potatoes were first planted as a crop on a large scale. It was also once famous for its fine linen mills. Pinkerton was one of the first private academies in the USA, as was the Adams Female Seminary—closed years ago. Pinkerton went coed in the 1850’s, long before most academies, and had one of the first girls’ basketball teams in the nation.
Alan Shepard of Derry
Alan Shepard was America’s first Astronaut in space. He was born in Derry in 1923 and grew up on a farm near the village of East Derry. He attended elementary School there and graduated high school from Pinkerton Academy before going to the Naval Academy. He was a World War II veteran and a naval test pilot before becoming one of the original seven astronauts (April, 1959). He rode “Freedom Seven” into space with his sub-orbital flight on May 5, 1961, the first success of the Mercury program. In 1963 he became Chief of the Astronaut Office. January 31 to February 9, 1971 he commanded Apollo 14, and became the fifth man to walk on the moon. He was the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor (Space). He died of leukemia July 21, 1998. Because of Admiral Shepard, the Pinkerton Academy sports teams are now called the “Astros”.
Let’s Do This
This is one of the best races in New England. It is unique. It is not intimidating, although that myth has become part of the mystique. You have likely heard stories of how difficult this race can be, and how unpredictable. Some of these myths are based in reality, certainly, and weather can be a factor in the last week of January. Unpredictable weather is part of the anticipation and the fun. But it is an ideal training run for Boston or any spring marathon, and now a New England Classic. Enjoy the miles and the season.
This is one of the best winter races in New England—Robert Frost and Alan Shepard would be proud. This race is really special; it is innovative, and enjoyably challenging. They have planned well for you in Derry, New Hampshire. Take the challenge, and enjoy the run.