Great Bay 5K could see season-best times from runners | SeacoastOnline.com
Great Bay 5K could see season-best times from runners
By Bob Wiles
October 19, 2011 2:00 AM
With only one race remaining in the 2011 Seacoast Road Race Series, hundreds of local athletes have trained and raced their way through the wet spring, a hot summer and now into a cool fall. The real reward for any race is the journey itself, but the cumulative effects of a well-executed racing season also generally bring runners to their finest form in the fall. That generally being the case, I'm excited to see how many locals turn up for the Great Bay 5K on Oct. 29 and run a season-best time.
To help the well-seasoned SRRS participants demonstrate their fitness, the scenic Stratham course features one of the fastest 5K layouts in the area. By starting and finishing at different venues, the Great Bay race does not have to go up as much as it goes down, making for a fast scamper along flat and gently downhill roads with just one minor bump in the final mile to keep runners under the legal speed limit.
The starting location for this race has been modified in recent years, but the course is certified and is assuredly a full five kilometers. Next weekend, runners will start in the parking lot at Stratham Hill Park, not even a stone's throw from the starting line of the Stratham Fair Road Race just a couple of months ago.
After escaping the parking lot with a couple of right-hand turns, the course offers a fast straight section down the left side of Route 33, turning left onto Stratham Lane just before the first mile marker. And it isn't just any mile marker ... it is the Mackenzie Mile. This race is one of the few races to offer prize money for the first man and woman to reach the mile. Why do they do it? To instigate a fast pace and ensure that runners and spectators enjoy an exciting race!
The second mile on this course is arguably one of the fastest around. With about a third of a mile on Stratham Lane before turning left onto Dearborn Road, there isn't a bump in sight to slow runners down. Just be sure to cut tangents and run the shortest possible route, as Dearborn winds a little bit and staying on the same side of the road the whole time will add distance to your route.
The final mile will turn left onto Orchard Hill road and then right onto Tidewater Farm Road. From there you will have basically a straight shot through some nice residential neighborhoods and down into the driveway to the Great Bay Discovery Center. The finish line is on a quick downhill section, so there is no reason to hold anything back as you cross the line.
With the start and finish in different locations, runners will want to choose their parking spot wisely. There is just over a mile separating the beginning from the end, and the easiest way to cover the span is by taking Depot Road.
When I park for this race, I choose somewhere near the start. This makes registering and checking in very easy, and then after the race I use the mile back to my car as part of my cool-down. Late October can be pretty cool and windy, so someone more clever than I am once suggested taking a jacket down to the finish during your warm-up as a good way to avoid getting chilly immediately after the race ends.
The awards ceremony is at the Great Bay Discovery Center, and being the finale of the SRRS, it usually serves as the awards venue for the overall series as well. Whether she chooses to run the finale or not, Durham's Nicole Toye has already done enough this summer to claim the overall series crown on the women's side. In fact, she has completed the series with the minimum possible points total to emphatically announce her return to the local racing scene this year.
On the men's side, things are slightly more interesting. Nick Crowell of Portsmouth has run just five of the first seven events, meaning he needs to race the Great Bay 5K in order to fulfill the requirement of doing at least six events. If he does race, he needs to finish in the top five to claim the series title. Considering he won this race last year, it is a fairly safe bet that he will be able to complete the task if he undertakes it.
If for some reason Crowell does not race, Somersworth's Rob Levey will win the men's title, having already completed the obligatory six races with a sufficient point cushion over third-place runner Chris Ritchie of Hampton.
Regardless of how the final race plays out, the 2011 Seacoast Road Race Series has been another exciting one, and with the Seacoast Half Marathon serving as the bonus race again this year, the excitement will continue into November for hundreds of the SRRS participants who are registered.
Bob Wiles lives in Kittery, Maine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.