The Big Lake Half Marathon is a fantastic NH racing event! If you’re a runner in the New England area looking for a half marathon to kick off the spring season, this is it. The race amenities are generous, the swag is top quality, the post-race party is a blast, and the legions of race volunteers are courteous and efficient.
Parking/Facilities/Registration: Parking was DIY style at the Alton Central School. Race volunteers directed traffic at the intersection to guide drivers to appropriate alternative parking areas as the spots filled up. Registration took place inside the school gymnasium. Tables for race packet pick-up, t-shirts, and shuttle bags were arranged around the perimeter of the basketball court. The process was very efficient and took less than 5 minutes. Just outside, porta-potties were lined up and waiting. With just 45 minuted until race time, there was still very little waiting. As the race approached, nerves set in, and the lines grew longer. Fortunately, there were also many porta-potties near the start area. This was a pleasant surprise to many who thought they had missed their opportunity.
Race Course: As I sit here with sore calves and tired knees, I think the Big Lake Half Marathon course is aptly described as moderately hilly with aggressively rolling terrain at miles 7 and 8. We didn’t climb any really steep, long hills, but the series of little rollers shredded my legs on the downhills. The course was very well-marked and traffic wasn’t an issue at all. Flag waivers and police presence were at every intersection. Aid stations were very plentiful and both Gatorade and water were available to choose from. At mile 7 there were GU energy gels offered to help runners power through the late miles. The thing that really set this race apart from others were the personalized signs along the solitary parts of the course. One said, “You think this is hard? Try growing out your bangs!” That kept me smiling for the next 400 yards.
Refreshments: Wow. There was a lot to choose from. I’m a big fan of warm pizza on a cool, rainy day. So, I headed straight for the pizza after chugging my water. But, I also saw Utz chips, Core Power drinks, Zico Juice, Smarty Pants, Jordan’s Ice Cream (blackberry was delicious), and other snacks. There was plenty for everyone. Oh- and inside Shibley’s at the Pier runners could find Smuttynose beer on tap. Napolean once said, “An army marches on its stomach.” Turns out, that’s the secret to keeping runners happy too.
Awards and Results: There were many awards. Male and female overall winners went 5 deep, and age groups were broken up in 5-year spans and went 3 deep. So, it was a pick-up deal to avoid what may have been a very long awards ceremony after a very long wait. Good decision. The awards were spectacular logo-engraved bottles containing 100% pure NH maple syrup and decorated with the Big Lake Half Marathon design. The results were posted outside Shibley’s as racers finished, and by the time I arrived home they’d been posted to CoolRunning.com
Overall Experience: I really enjoyed the Big Lake Half Marathon. It was clear that the race organizers put some serious time and effort into planning a quality running event. This is a race that will continue develop a loyal following. If you run this race once, you’ll want to run it again. It was a top-notch experience.
I wouldn’t change a thing next year, except maybe the weather forecast. Today was cool and rainy which can pose challenges for some runners. But, with shuttle service to take runners’ gear from the start to the finish and Shibley’s close to the finish line, the race organizers made the experience the best it could be.
Did YOU run the 2014 Big Lake Half Marathon? Please leave your comments below.
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