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The First Baystate Marathon
With the Baystate marathon coming up Sunday, I thought I would again post this article about the history of the race, now in its ninth running. I initiated the race in 1990 with my now Cool Running friend Dave Camire, of the Greater Lowell Road Runners. The original goal was to stage a marathon after the new year, but before Boston. All that existed in New England at the time was Hyannis, an iffy proposition at best for those of you who have ever been to Cape Cod in March. As Boston qualifying was open until March, it seemed another opportunity in the area would be welcome.

  
The First Baystate Marathon

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By Don Allison
Posted Tuesday, 15 October, 1996

With the Baystate marathon coming up Sunday, I thought I would again post this article about the history of the race, now in its ninth running. I initiated the race in 1990 with my now Cool Running friend Dave Camire, of the Greater Lowell Road Runners. The original goal was to stage a marathon after the new year, but before Boston. All that existed in New England at the time was Hyannis, an iffy proposition at best for those of you who have ever been to Cape Cod in March. As Boston qualifying was open until March, it seemed another opportunity in the area would be welcome.

We managed to secure a sponsor, Lifetime Corp (A home health care company, since taken over by Kimberly). My hope was to have the race go around the Charles River in Boston, but dealing with the MDC got sticky, so we moved it to Lowell and the Merrimac River route, a remarkably similar course. The date was set for February 19th. Two days before the race it was 70 degrees. The day before, we got ten inches of snow. That's New England weather. The snowstorm stopped late in the afternoon on the 18th, but more was predicted for Sunday. We decided to go ahead with the race anyway, expecting maybe 20 people to show up. It was a long and anxious evening of waiting.

By Sunday morning it was 18 degrees with whipping wind. The snow started at about 8 a.m., the race set for 10. Although driving was treacherous, 150 runners actually made it to the Lowell University start. We did indeed have a race; the winning times were 2:43 and 3:06, a testimony to the fast nature of the course. My most vivid memories are of being out on the course, amazed at the resiliency of the runners. They all seemed in good spirits despite the conditions. But mostly I remember standing at the finish line for hours, watching the finishers. The cold was so numbing I couldn't feel a thing. I was heartened by the fact that almost all of the 95 finishers were in decent shape, and almost half actually qualified for Boston!

The weather was too much for Lifetime. They insisted on having the race in the fall or not at all. So it was moved to the fall (and held twice in 1990) where it now stays in mid-October, although Lifetime is gone as a sponsor. I abdicated race directorship to the GLRR, but am still involved. For those of you running, I'll be the one doing the finish line announcing at the marathon. Dave Tyler, Bill Smith and the rest of the GLRR folks have made Baystate a cornerstone of New England fall marathons.

The course is a two looper around the Merrimac river, one loop for the halfers. It is quite flat, but scenic. The back side of the course runs from miles four to ten and can be windy if there is a typical fall northwest wind. The last three years have been beautiful-sunny and cool. Don't go out too fast! Those early miles come pretty easily. The first loop should feel very comfortable. When you get near the start/finish it will seem hard to keep going when the halfers are completing their run. This is especially true this year, as the half marathon will be the New England championship and thus will have many speedy runners in it. Do not worry about them; concentrate on your own race. Once back out on the route after the halfers finish, you will feel good to know there is less to do than you have already done. The Tyngsboro bridge will seem to never arrive on the backside of the course the second time, but be patient. Once over that, you are home free. It's just a short few miles to the finish.

 

 

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