Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This week's column; Great Island 5K brings out best in runners |

Great Island 5K brings out best in runners |

By Bob Wiles
October 05, 2011 2:00 AM
Throughout the spring and summer I have tried to provide useful race previews for the Seacoast Road Race Series events. Well, now fall is upon us and there are only a couple of events remaining on the schedule. This week we'll take a look at the Great Island 5K!

First conceived in 1993, the race will be run for the 18th time on Sunday. Start time for the 5K is 10 a.m., followed by a kids fun run at 10:45.

Like all SRRS events, this race attracts a bunch of people. With over 1,100 preregistered runners, parking will spill out of the Great Island Common parking lots and onto Route 1B as well as some side streets. If you are attending the race as a spectator I would recommend parking to the south of the entrance to the Common, as this is the side that is not on the race route. This will make more room for runners along the course and also allow you to leave early if necessary.

For the runners, registration is standard 5K pricing at $20 for early birds and $25 on race day. You can register and pick up your race number on Saturday evening from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. or on race day starting at 8 a.m. Both take place in the Great Island Common Recreation Building. You can also sign up for the fun run at those times.

When the gun goes off at 10 a.m., runners will make a lap around the common before heading out onto the scenic roads of New Castle. Turning left out of the parking lot onto Wentworth Road (1B), the course gently rolls toward the water.

Hugging the coast as you turn left onto Walbach Street, the first-mile marker awaits immediately after a right turn onto Piscataqua Street. Still running with the water on your right, the course bears left and spills back onto 1B for a moment before cutting back onto the water along River Street. Here is a quick drop in elevation and a great spot for making a move on anyone you're racing against.

A short climb up Oliver Street brings you back onto 1B for another quick section before touring the neighborhood on Locke Road. You will find a water stop and the second-mile marker in this rolling neighborhood before once again taking a few strides on 1B.

The race course goes cross country for a while as it turns onto Neals Lane for about half a mile of dirt road. This is another great place to surge and make a break from your competitors if you like dashing on the dirt.

When the dirt road spills out onto 1B for the last time you can tell the finish is getting close, and a left turn brings you back into the Great Island Common for another lap around the fields before approaching the finish line.

I can't really explain it, but this race is one of those 5Ks that seems to fly by. It isn't a short course and it isn't the flattest course in America, but because you are not on the same road for any long stretches, the time just seems to go by very quickly.

With tremendous community support and a very strong reputation, this is one of the races where you feel the crowd support, particularly for the first and last half-miles on the Common's grounds. Last year I distinctly recall being carried from second place into first by the feverish support of the spectators urging me to pass the out-of-towner who was making a valiant bid for glory on a course that I consider home turf. It is still the most exciting and satisfying finish to a race that I've been a part of.

In addition to the vibe you'll feel before and during the race, the post-race atmosphere is also first class. With great food and the excitement that kids' fun runs bring, a wonderful awards ceremony with the coastal backdrop is among the best around. And with cash and lobsters up for grabs, there are usually some impressive times posted at this race. It isn't uncommon for semi-professional runners to drive up from New York to try for the course record, which is worth an extra $400 for both men and women.

Proceeds from the Great Island 5K have supported great projects such as the skating rink and playground at the Common among others over the years. This year's proceeds will go toward funding two scholarships that have been established in memory of race co-founder Dr. Tom Quinn.

For more information or to register for the race, visit the race website at

Bob Wiles lives in Kittery, Maine. He can be reached at

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