Reach the Beach Relay - New Hampshire at its best
Few running events offer as much enjoyment and camaraderie as distance relay. And no other distance relay offers the incredible variety of scenery, hospitality, challenge, organization, and overpowering satisfaction as New Hampshire's Reach the Beach Relay. It is the longest major relay in North America, run at the beginning of the famous foliage season. People travel from all over the world to witness the unsurpassed beauty of the New England foliage. And what better way to see this famous terrain than by foot—and with your teammates. This relay is unique, and overwhelmingly special.
Posted Tuesday, 29 April, 2003
This will be the fifth year for the Reach the Beach Relay—200 miles, 36 legs, 24-hours, from the incredible White Mountain National Forest through the spectacular Lakes region, to the glistening shore of the Atlantic Ocean. And there is so much to experience between. Mountain peaks and ridges frame unrivaled natural beauty. Wildlife is abundant in route, where 90% of the country is forested. A moose may be visible munching along the shores of the many lakes and ponds. Hawks and eagles will soar along the craggy peaks and cliffs such as Cathedral Ledge.
This relay is engulfed by spectacular scenery, but it is the camaraderie along that route, the teamwork and shared experiences that most runners will take with them. Clubs come for the competition from throughout the country. New Hampshire and New England clubs will take on the best from other states. They can choose from the 18 different divisions—competitions within competitions. Some clubs send teams to compete with each other. Schools and other organizations send teams for the challenge—many of them use the event as a fundraiser.
This relay is engulfed by spectacular scenery, but it is the camaraderie along that route, the teamwork and shared experiences that most runners will take with them.
Corporate team categories offer tremendous opportunities for companies to bond with teammates and build morale. Many companies spend thousands of dollars on team building and morale building programs and employee fitness. Save the money and come run the RTB. None of their programs can possibly match the ebullient effects of the Reach the Beach Relay. Symbols of the shared experience will be hung on the wall in the boardroom, and deep within the institutional memory as a milestone for the employees and their company.
All runners will experience the hospitality of the communities along the route. For example in Candia, leg 26, runners are treated to an all-you-can-eat breakfast, cooked by the Candia Volunteer Fire Department—beginning at 4 a.m.! At Sandwich Center School, leg 14, they specialize in lamb stew for all participants. The Tamworth Community School bakes incomparable chocolate chip cookies at leg 13. The Good Shepard Lutheran Church in Gilmanton opens its doors at transition area 19 so all runners have a place to sleep. Support and community involvement from local clubs, organizations, churches, and dozens of Girl Scout and Boy Scout Troops make all runners feel welcome.
"It is truly a grass roots event", says Co-Director Mike Dionne, who conceived the relay in 1998 along with Co-Director Rich Mazzola. From the beginning they tried to involve as many community organizations as possible, as well as the New Hampshire State Parks, a beneficiary of some of the proceeds.
It all begins at Crawford Notch, in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire's largest ski area. The first five legs skirt the famous Presidential Range of the White Mountains, including Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeast. The impressive New Hampshire State Park system will be on display all along the route, with many of the 35 transition areas in or near the parks. Five very carefully selected vehicle transition areas (VTA's) provide plenty of space and all necessary facilities for refreshment and refueling.
The RTB route passes famous Squam Lake where "On golden Pond" was filmed, and runners sprint by the docks of Meredith, a harbor at the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee. The vast impressive mountain ranges give way to lower, flatter terrain, where quintessential New England villages dot the land. Many homes along the route date from revolutionary times. Village after village could be—and often are--the backdrop for idyllic movie settings. Farms and churches look much the same as they did in the 1800's, or earlier.
The New Hampshire seashore beckons, and the final 10 miles are immediately adjacent to the pounding serf of the Atlantic. Upon reaching the final State Park, Hampton Beach, the competitors will relax, party, and exchange stories about the trek and its most memorable moments.
The relay has grown each year, and to maintain the quality of the event it is limited to an exclusive 200 teams. Most teams will field the normal 12 runners, each one running three of the 36 legs. Teams with less than 12 runners are welcome, but must run more legs to compensate. There is an "Ultra Division" of no more than 6 members, and they will run six legs each. The ultra category is the only one for which a runner can run consecutive legs. All others hand off in sequence. Individual runners may apply, and will be matched up with teams whenever possible.
Every single one of the 36 legs is scenic and enjoyable. The shortest leg is 2.4 miles, and the longest is 8.8 (two). The average for the 36 legs along the official 206.9-mile trek is 5.74 miles. Legs are categorized as: easy, easy to moderate, moderate, moderate to hard, hard, very hard, and extremely hard. The latter is a combination of hills and distance. Most of the legs (23) fall into the easy to moderate categories. Only thirteen are moderately hard to extremely hard (2). One of the most difficult is the first leg on the slopes of Bretton Woods, which is, ironically, followed by the easiest and shortest of them all.
The scenery of New Hampshire inspired Robert Frost and Henry David Thoreau. They had a personal attachment to its wonders, and an up-close look at the splendor. Each participant in the Reach the Beach Relay also gains a personal connection. So scenic and majestic is this course, that teams should drive its entire length in reverse as they travel to the White Mountain start line.
Mark Traeger of the Sandown Rogue Runners led a volunteer group for the Sandown leg--number 28--during the first two years, 1999 and 2000. "We knew we had to participate", said Traeger, and he has organized a running team the last two years. "We won't miss it now," he said, "It is an outstanding event." This year the Rogue Runners will field two teams, and they count the event as one of the great experiences in the club's history. They use the occasion as a very effective community fundraiser.
If you or your group has considered a relay, do it. If you have not considered a relay, organize your team and get to it. This relay provides an experience unmatched in other running events, and should not be missed.