Applefest, The Most Rewarding and Beautiful Half-Marathon in the Northeast
The Applefest Half Marathon in Hollis, New Hampshire provides more awards and rewards than any other half marathon. And it travels a beautiful, scenic, rural New England course in peak foliage season. This run is beautiful; it is rewarding, it is Applefest. Many run just for the post-race food—especially the famous apple crisp—or the beautiful long-sleeve T's. And this year, they have added a relay—a relay that is already generating tremendous interest.
Posted Thursday, 26 June, 2003
Hollis, New Hampshire, is a quaint small town in the southern part of the state. It is rural, and many orchards and farms dot the landscape, just as they have for several centuries. Many farmers left these farms to fight for American Independence in the Revolution, and you can almost feel the sense of history. You can see the orchards, smell the apples during harvest, and view the gorgeous explosion of color in peak foliage season. The Gate City Striders captured all of this when they created the Applefest Half Marathon 20 years ago. This event has made a cherished name for itself as a race "Created by Runners, for Runners." And it is.
The 21st running of the Applefest Half Marathon, famous for unique features and attention to detail, will run on Saturday, October 4, at 10:00 a.m. Everything about this event is first class: The facilities, the unique T-shirts, the beautiful course, the volunteers, the energetic student-manned water stops, the many quality awards, and the scrumptious post race food. Every detail is covered, and runners are treated to one of the best race experiences anywhere.
The quality of the event has been such, and demand so high over the years that they had to limit the field (1,200 runners). The demand also increased in recent years for a shorter race to accompany the 13.1-mile half marathon. Organizers responded by offering a two-person relay option for the first time this year. Initial high interest shows the relay will definitely be a sellout (limit 150 teams). Closeouts at similar events such as the Keybank Vermont City Marathon Relay and the Cape Cod Dunkin' Donuts Marathon Relay certainly back this up.
This event has made a cherished name for itself as a race "Created by Runners, for Runners."
Applefest will award a minimum of 120 prizes this year. There are several award changes and additions, including new cash prizes of $300, $200, and $100 for first, second, and third females and males overall. Awards are provided three deep in 12 different divisions (5-year age groups) for both women and men—that is 78 awards. Additionally they offer prizes for the top three female and male weight (Clydesdale) divisions, the top three local females and males; and this year, 30 awards will be distributed in the relay. The top three relay teams overall in three divisions--female, male, and mixed—will receive $100 cash. And there are relay awards going three deep in three categories—open, masters, and seniors—in female, male, and mixed groups. Impressive medals and "Mile High Pies" will be given to each of the 24 division winners.
An $800 bonus will be awarded if there is a course record (1:06:07, Dave Dunham, 1992; 1:18:22, Patti Laliberte, 1983). And a handsome embroidered sweatshirt will be given to any runner breaking an individual age group record. This is a unique feature of Applefest, and there have been nine such awards in each of the last two years.
Best of all, every finisher this year will receive her or his own commemorative award, a long-standing tradition. Many runners participate year after year to collect their award, or receive the beautiful and artfully designed long-sleeved T-shirts, although they are optional.
Age Group Records
From the very first Applefest race in 1983, unique records have been kept for every age, not just age groups. They run from age 12 to 80, and anyone who breaks these records gets the aforementioned sweatshirt (with embroidered Applefest logo, their name, and age group) and their name in the book. Nine have been awarded in each of the last two years. Carrie Parsi of Massachusetts, who recently returned from a two-year tour in the Peace Corps, holds eight such records (between age 49 and 59), and Carlton Mendel of Maine has set 10, including one for age 80--last year. Mendel (5) and Dave Parsel of California (4) are the only athletes to have current record streaks exceeding two races. Joe Fernandez of New Bedford, Massachusetts set a national veteran's record in this race in 1989.
Here are two hints: If you are a woman age 66 and older, you will automatically set an age record. Its difficult to believe, but no woman 66 or older has ever run this race. And the mid age groups are there for the taking—all women's and men's records from age 19 to 39 were set in the 80's and 90's. Not one has changed since 1999. In fact, nine records set in the very first race (1983), including the women's overall mark, have not been broken in 20 years. These records provide a unique award structure, as well as a very different perspective on this exceptional race.
Applefest boasts first class facilities and equipment. Pre and post race activities will be held in the new Hollis/Brookline High School, and the spacious locker rooms are open to runners. Showers, lockers, and changing facilities are available to all, and couldn't be better. Timing is excellent in this event, and results are posted quickly. Porto johns are abundant, in addition to the indoor facilities. A tent will make the post race food even more enjoyable. The entire setting is ideal for the color-splashed half marathon.
The course is a gorgeous rural tour of farms and orchards. It is a figure eight with a small upper loop, and a lower loop. It begins and ends at the high school, and is a record quality course. The race date is peak foliage season, as well as the peak of the apple harvest (with pick-your-own options nearby). Brookdale Farms, a 21-year race sponsor, is located on the course at mile 11.
In addition to farms and orchards, the course passes Silver Lake State Park (mile 3.5), a cemetery where those Revolutionary War Soldiers are interred (mile 11.5), hardwood forests alive with color, and the quintessential town center, with the historic Town Hall and Civil War Memorial (2.5 and 11.5). There are water stations every 2 miles (manned by competing groups of students), and very strict traffic control. The rolling hills provide variety and add much to the rural landscape and vibrant colors.
The relay will be run in two segments, with the first 6.4 miles, and the last 6.7 miles. The first is net downhill, and the second is, of course, net uphill. The relay handoff is near the lowest point on the course. Buses will take all second-leg runners to the relay point, and will return all first-leg runners from the hand-off in time to see their partners finish. Relay runners will be given the same high quality, memorable experience as the individual runners.
This event simply has the best post-race food, a difficult claim to be sure—but true. It starts with the famous apple crisp provided by 21-year sponsor New England Country Pies—the same folks who bake the award winning "Mile High Apple Pies", their signature product. Beyond the apple crisp is the widest variety of baked goods in unbelievable quantities, and, of course, large quantities of fruit, yogurt, and beverages. There is a sizable and hard-working committee dedicated just to food preparation, and they are without parallel in their production. You will be well rewarded. This committee is made up of runners who know exactly what makes participants happy at the post race.
Loyal Following, Great Tradition
Great races have a very loyal following, and runners toe the line for this event year after year after year. All aspects of the event--the organization, the course, the season, the atmosphere, and the rewards--align to make this truly a very special race. It is a highlight of the fall racing season, and for many it is the highlight of the year. This race is a model for distance events. Try it out. Bet you can't run just one.
There are a few caveats. Relay runners may sign up online only, no snail-mail. Registrations for all individual and relay runners are only accepted prior to race day—no race-day registration. And there are strict limits on the field to maintain the quality of the event—1,200 individual runners and 150 teams allowed. Don't be shut out.
Applefest—21,097.53 meters of pure pleasure, beauty, and yes, terrific food at the finish of this most memorable race.