Let’s get the obvious question out of the way … 5.7 miles?? Yes, it was the Stratham Fair Road Race is a 5.7 mile race. This year was the 40th running of this race, which takes place in Stratham, New Hampshire, every year in conjunction with the Stratham Fair. This year’s race was held on Saturday, July 20.

In all honesty, this race was not originally part of my race plans for 2013. However, our running club (Coastal Athletic Association - CAA) encourages our members to run this race every year. It is a small race (167 finishers, including the relay teams), but it also includes a running club challenge between CAA and The Winner’s Circle Running Club. Thus, my wife and I decided to sign up and run.

We arrived in time to pick up our bibs, t-shirts and commemorative pint glasses (there was no pick-up prior to race day). This gave us some time to do some socializing prior to the race.

When 8:30 AM start time came around, the weather was warm and humid. I lined up with the thoughts of taking it easy since I’d be running another race on Sunday. However, when we started, my strategy went completely down the drain. After the first two miles, I was running just over a 7:00 pace, and I’m not a 7:00 pace kind of guy.

Needless to say, the fast start combined with the humidity and the rolling hills quickly took their toll on me. I found myself slowing down, taking water at every water stop (they increased the number of water stops based on the weather) and running under the hoses and sprinklers of the thoughtful homeowners along the race course who were out there trying to keep us cool. Eventually, I found myself alternating between walking and running.

The final mile or so of the course is entirely on a gradual uphill. After recovering from everything that went wrong, I managed to kick it up a bit at the end and finished the race with a decent kick. As I crossed the finish line, I ended up with a 7:59 overall pace. This was far from what I planned on, but given the conditions, I can’t complain that much.

After crossing the finish line, we were handed cool, wet towels. This is the first race that I’ve ever run where this was offered. It was a brilliant idea and exactly what I needed at that moment. Not long after I finished, my wife crossed the finish line too. We spent some time talking with other runners and encouraging the runners still on the course for a few minutes before heading over to the pavilion for some more liquids.

After the race was over, there was an awards ceremony and a raffle where quite an abundance of prizes were given out.

This was a very well organized race, and it is always great to run with a great group of runners. The Stratham Fair Road Race is definitely a race that I will consider running again next year. Maybe I’ll see you there!

The Boston Experience

16 April 2013, 12:00 am
Published in Blog

As a runner, the Boston Marathon leads the list of marathons that I want to run some day. As a New Englander, the Boston Marathon also has always been one of those events that I wanted to go to, but I had never managed to do so. Over the past year, however, I have been an active member of the local running community, and I knew about eight people who would be running the Boston Marathon this year. Therefore, I decided to join a group of friends from the Coastal Athletic Association to go down to Boston to cheer on our friends and all the other runners.

This was my first Boston Marathon, and in every way, it will be a day that I will never forget. We got up early and headed down to Boston from our meeting point in Portsmouth, NH. Once we got into the city, we had breakfast and headed over to the place where we planned to spend the day cheering on our friends and fellow runners. We were in a small park at about mile 25. On the walk from the parking garage under Boston Commons, we noticed the line of Homeland Security along the route in their dark uniforms and dark SUVs. There was a tent set up in case of a chemical or biological attack with hoses, showers, fans, etc. There were sensors set up in the trees. All of this was disconcerting; however, it is also something that we have come to accept as “normal” for a large-scale event like this in a major U.S. city since the events of 9/11.

Shortly after we settled into our spot on the course, the first wheelchair racers made their way by to the cheers of the crowds. We then were anticipating seeing the elite women wondering if Shalane Flanagan or Kara Goucher might be in the lead. Although neither of them were in first or second, it wasn’t long before we saw both of them pass by. This followed not much later by the elite men.

Then began our task of watching for all the runners that we knew and for whom we had come to cheer. We kept watching and speculating as we saw what might be the color of their race outfit coming down the course. As we confirmed that we saw our friends, the intensity of our cheering increased.

Many of our friends had passed by, and we were watching for the last few to come by. It was just about that time that we heard a loud boom followed quickly by a second one. We looked at each other wondering what it could be. At first, we thought that maybe it was cannon fire or something tied to the celebration of Patriots Day. These thoughts were quickly shattered as the sirens began to wail and police vehicles started to rush buy at full speed in the direction of the finish line.

Within minutes, the race course was closed and runners were coming to a stop in front of us. Phone service became spotty, so we began relying on texting and social media to try to figure out what was going on. We heard about explosions at the finish line. At this point, we began to tell the runners that were still running in front of us to stop running because the race was over. You could immediately see the looks of disbelief that the race was coming to end just over a mile from the finish line after many of these runners had been running already for four hours. This was followed by looks of shock as we told them that there were explosions at the finish line.

In addition to being concerned about what was going on at the finish line, there was an entirely secondary set of issues. Because no one planned for the marathon to end at mile 25, there were no support services: no medical stations, no food, no water, no warming blankets. Those of us who were there offered our phones so that racers could text their family members and let them know that they were OK or try to find out if their friends and families who were at the finish line were OK. Some of us, including runners who had already finished the race and made their way back, gave the jackets off our backs to try to keep runners warm. Residents along the course also came out with pitchers or water and food to share with the runners. It was truly inspiring to see good people responding in such a way to a horrible event.

After we accounted for all our friends and family, we headed back to the parking garage to try to get out of the city as quickly as we could. Along the way, blocks away from the course, people were opening their homes and offering rest for anyone who needed it.

We made it to the car and got out of the city getting back to Portsmouth around 6:00 PM. Although we were relieved to be home and that all our friends and family members were safe, we all are still trying to digest and figure out the events of the day. There will be many days of reliving the events in our heads and reflecting upon what happened.

We will never truly understand what happened, but we will continue to run both for ourselves and in honor of those people who were killed and injured at the finish line.