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home > races/results > usa: new hampshire > the second annual great bay half marathon—sweet

The Second Annual Great Bay Half Marathon—Sweet
You likely heard about the first one, so don’t miss the second--a great rural course, historic mill town, and terrific organization. Great Bay is beautiful in early spring, a designated scenic byway.

The Second Annual Great Bay Half Marathon—Sweet

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By Skip Cleaver
Posted Monday, 18 February, 2008

The Great Bay Half Marathon is one of those “must do” spring races in New England. The timing is right, the organization and amenities top notch, the course is outstanding, and there is something for everyone in this coastal New Hampshire tour. Running April 6, 2008, it has an 11:00 a.m. start time, and a walking division, which will step off at 10:30. Race headquarters will be the Newmarket Junior-Senior High School on South Main Street. The primary sponsor helping bring this wonderful event to you is the Exeter Hospital.

There is a lot to like about this event, including the awards and outstanding post race food—even more and better than last year. The first 250 to sign up will receive an embroidered running hat and technical wicking shirt. The first 2,000 get a Great Bay Half technical shirt. Every finisher will receive a custom made medal, with unique pottery mugs as five-year age group prizes. Those running their first race and those completing their first half marathon will be eligible for the newbie raffle, and there are separate awards for walkers. And Loco will provide special awards for top Newmarket finishers. Very rewarding!

This course is terrific, with the first and last mile in town and 11 winding through forest-bordered roads, with ancient stone walls. Fields, small ponds, and tidal marshes frame beautiful views of Great Bay estuary. This intriguing route runs adjacent to wildlife refuges and conservation areas. It has rolling hills and moderately challenging hills to provide gorgeous views of Great Bay. Most hills are small and climbs short with about 100 feet of elevation change.

Plan to join the fun in Newmarket, a small mill town with a rich history and distinctive character. The Lamprey River and Lamprey Falls bisect Newmarket, where the river cascades into tidal Great Bay. This region became a rich source of seafood and water power. Early mills were built there, powered by the falling waters of the Lamprey. These mills are fascinating tributes to Yankee ingenuity and are monuments of masterful granite and brick works.

There will be a Health and Fitness Expo in the high school gym the day before the race, Saturday, April 5, noon to 5:00 p.m. It will include health screenings, thanks to Exeter Hospital. Packet, number and chip pickup is available at that time. And there will be a kids' run on Saturday as well. Packet pickup will also be available race morning, April 6, 8:00 to 10:30 a.m. Chip timing by Yankee Timing Company will provide accurate and immediate results. And Andy Schachat will announce the festivities throughout. You can be sure of a wonderful race and terrific time.

Loco Running
This race is one of the three half marathons brought to you by the folks at Loco Running in the past year. Loco, a company for runners, by runners, is located right in Newmarket near those historic mills. This was the first last spring followed by the tremendously successful women’s Maine Coast Half Marathon in September and the recent Half at the Hamptons. Anyone participating in those events will tell you all details were covered, and planning and administration were top notch. Each was among the most successful first-time events in New England. They have shown that when you do it right, runners appreciate the effort and respond. The second edition of the Great Bay Half will be one terrific race. And watch for some major additions and surprises from this very innovative running company in 2008.

The Great Bay Half Marathon is the fourth of six races in the celebrated “Gone Loco, Will Run for Beer” series that began on New Years Day. There will be a separate offsite post-race party for this hardy and frolicsome group. Check out the details at the race Website,, e-mail inquiries to, or call 603-659-2824.

Terrific Loop Course
The starting is adjacent to the Newmarket Elementary School, South Main Street, just east of the intersection of Grant Road and Wadleigh Falls Road (the entrance to the school and the parking lot is on Durell Road, off Grant, 3/10 mile from the high school). Runners will head east on South Main, passing the high school toward the center of town. The course crosses the railroad bridge at ½ mile, and then turns left on South Street. A right on Spring Street carries runners north, parallel to Main Street. Runners will pass the famous Elm Street Murals adjacent to the library. These murals depicting Newmarket are painted on the foundation wall of an old mill building.

Elm Street intersects North Main just south of the Lamprey River, and the bridge carries runners over the river and above the Lamprey Falls, which powered the mill complex. Just beyond the river, the course turns right on Bay Road (1.1 miles), followed by a left on Lamprey (1.3). Lamprey heads to a right on Dame Road, a quiet, scenic, tree-lined country lane.

Dame Road crosses the town line into Durham at 2.3 miles, and the road turns from asphalt to hard packed dirt and gravel.

This section is terrific. It runs along a nature sanctuary, with pine trees dominating at first, and then several miles of the course are lined with majestic, sweeping hemlock groves. This area is ideal wildlife habitat, with vernal pools and marshes among the trees. Granite outcroppings stand like monuments among the evergreens, and the road is lined with those famous stone walls that appear undisturbed since Newmarket was founded in 1727.

This section is quiet and peaceful, with enough roll to be invigorating. Dame Road intersects Bay Road at the five-mile mark. A right turn on Bay Road (designated scenic byway) takes runners southwest and parallel to the Great Bay shoreline. Just after turning on Bay Road, the course passes the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory (5.3 miles-Adams Point Road), followed by a nice little hill at 5.5. Another hill at 6.3 provides a terrific panoramic view of Great Bay. Bay Road is also lined with stone walls, with open fields for views including another rise at 7.6 miles; these hills can be challenging in a 13.1-mile race.

At 7.9 the course passes the Lubberland Creek Nature Conservancy area. There are many trails for running and hiking in this area, and you will want to return to explore. The Great Bay Office of the Nature Conservancy is on the left at 8.2 miles.

At 8.7 miles the course turns left on Cushing Road for a flat, quiet out-and-back on Moody Point; this totals 2.6 miles through a beautiful shoreline development. When runners return to Bay Road they will be at 11.3 with only 1.8 miles to go.

It is only a half mile back to North Main Street, the river, and the mills. Runners have 1.2 to go when they cross the bridge, followed by a right on Elm Street, running past those murals. Runners will retrace their first mile back to the Junior-Senior High School and the finish.

The Great Bay
Great Bay is a beautiful natural area and plays a major role as wildlife and marine habitat. It is a mixture of rocky shoreline, salt marshes, open fields, forested shoreline, and tidal waters. The bay is a major estuary beginning at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. It has very active tides, deep channels, and penetrates inland for miles. And it provides beautiful views from many coastal locations, including Newmarket and Durham. New Hampshire has the shortest coastline of any US state bordering oceans (18.3), but there are 150 miles of coastline when Great Bay is added. It is one of the largest estuaries on the east coast. It has a wide variety of plant and animal life along its banks, and is vitally important to the health of the Gulf of Maine and the Atlantic Ocean.

Historic Newmarket
The earliest Native American archaeological site in the immediate area was discovered on the Lamprey just above the town, dating from 8,430 years ago. Settlers came in the late 1600’s, and the town was incorporated in 1727, then part of Massachusetts. Soon after settlement dams and mills were developed in the region to take advantage of the Lamprey River and its tributaries. Early residents used the power of the river to saw logs, grind flour, make knives and farm implements, wood products, wagon wheels and carriages, matches, paper, and cloth. The Newmarket Manufacturing Company established the first textile mill in 1823. Eventually there were seven mills powered by the Lamprey River. Lamprey Falls, where the river drops 54 feet into tidal Great Bay, was where entrepreneurs built these early mills, and where the later, larger mills still stand.

With an outlet to Great Bay and productive manufacturing mills, Newmarket became a significant New England seaport. Great Bay was one of the first major commercial waterways developed by early settlers. Gundalows were flat-bottomed sailing vessels that could carry tons of cargo; they loaded and unloaded at Newmarket and plied the Great Bay to Portsmouth for over a century until railroads became dominant in the late 1800’s. They carried bricks, lumber, and importantly the cotton that went to mills. Newmarket was instrumental in New England shipping and trade with the West Indies.

The mill buildings are marvels of masonry, with mixed stone and brick structures dominating the river’s edge. These mills are as much works of art as they are industrial buildings—especially the stone work. The master masons’ work is in such good condition you would never know they are over 150 years old. They are now used for various residential and commercial purposes. For many years they were the home of Timberland Shoes.

Visitors should take time to appreciate these fine examples of New England mills, where Yankee inventiveness took root and flourished. The Macallen Dam (which had one of the earliest fish ladders) is a terrific example of how water power was harnessed for industry. The river upstream of the dam (visible from the bridge) is beautiful, especially in early spring. Below the dam and across the river lies the Heron Point Wildlife Sanctuary with trails and viewing decks.

Main Street has an interesting mix of buildings, over 140 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Restaurants and shops now occupy the lower floors on Main Street and adjacent streets.

Newmarket has just over 8,000 residents and a small town atmosphere. But they enjoy close proximity to major New England cultural centers. Newmarket is easily accessible from Interstate 95 via Route 101 (only 6.1 miles from Route 101), and is five miles south of US Route 4 at Durham.

Don’t Miss the Great Bay Half Marathon
Join a few thousand friends for this event, a must-do on April sixth. It’s your half marathon in historic Newmarket and Durham. Runners of all ages and all paces will have a great tour along Great Bay. Run this half marathon along the estuary, beginning and ending in historic Newmarket, home of Hall of Fame Olympian Lynn Jennings. The course is beautiful, nearly all of it rural roads—very rural indeed. You will love running along this course, especially this time of year.

This race, in its second year, was a gem right out of the gate. Running two weeks and a day before the Boston Marathon, this will be a regional tune-up for many, and a first ever challenge for others. This one is for everyone from the swiftest to the back of the pack runners and walkers; it is the same beautiful course for all. Think spring, and sign up now. Numbers may not be available for long.



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