Thursday, September 17, 2015

Race Report: Mainly Marathons, New England Series Day 6 - Coventry, RI

On the course....
(photo by Donna Dullys)
You thought running two halfs in two days was hard?  Try seven.  Or seven marathons.  That's what a bunch of folks did during Mainly Marathons' inaugural New England Series, running through the six New England states plus throwing in New York in there just for fun.  Run by Clint Burleson, Mainly Marathons has done several series races where runners can do multiple states in just a matter of days.  Popular are the races through the northern plains, known as the Center of the Nation series; the Great Lakes area plus Minnesota and Iowa, known as the Heartland series; and the southeast coast from West Virginia down to Georgia, known as the Appalachian series, to name a few.

The iconic whiteboard, changed at every state!
These races are unique as they are multi-loop or out-and-back course setups.  Per the website, each course has "one giant 'aid station' [that serves as the finish line and the 'lap' station] with more food and drink than any runner could ever need.  [The aid station] has everything from fruit, to jelly beans, to sandwiches; water to Gatorade to hot coffee; and everything in between - way more than just Goo and bananas (although the banana smoothies really hit the spot on hot days)!"

I joined the series on its sixth day, after runners had already done their 13.1 or 26.2 in Maine, New Hampshire (where the weather caused road flooding and the race had to be suspended at one point due to lightning), Vermont, Massachusetts (on a particularly hilly trail course), and Connecticut (on a pancake flat course).  Needless to say, when I arrived, there were a lot of runners in various states of pain or slight injury, but they were still trudging on through.

My second to last summer Friday at work had me leaving at 1pm for my MegaBus to Providence. Since I work in Jamaica, I had to take the long subway ride all the way out to the pickup area across the street from the Javits Center on the west side of Manhattan.  I got there with enough time to spare to even pick up a salad from a nearby storefront on my way.  With normal rush hour traffic, we were delayed arriving in Providence by nearly an hour, but I was quickly picked up by Dave, Laura, Chad, and Donna, before making our way out to the hotel only a few miles away from the race course.

With Brian and Jim
We turned in for the night, and set alarms super early for the following morning, as with this series of races, there were 6am starts, and I still had to get my bib.  We woke up with lots of time to spare, picked up another runner (who brought his young son with him) from the hotel next door and then made our way to the course, just off the Coventry Greenway.

At 5:30, the scene was already bustling.  This was easily the highest attended race of the entire series.  The "aid station" was set up just as had been described, at an easy spot where the start and end were also situated.  There were a few tables with food already set up, then the table with all the rubber bands which runners would grab as they completed each "lap" of the out-and-back course, and then the timing table where race personnel took down finish times and provided finisher medals upon finishing.

BFF Donna :) (and photo by her, too!)
After a quick announcement from Clint, we were off.  We ran down the parking lot and down a small hill, no more than 20 feet of drop to a point where we had to turn around.  As we returned up the hill and gradually gained in elevation, we took a right through a wide paved roadway between the trees.  We regained that 20 feet up to a clearing where we saw the parking lot again, and ran across the asphalt to a point where there was an orange cone painted black.  This was the "turn around" point.  We ran back the way we came, going downhill the 20 feet as we curved down the roadway to the first cone and then back up the hill with 20 feet of elevation gain as we made our way right back to the start line/aid station.  Here we'd pick up our rubber band, and then do the loop over and over again.  Half marathoners picked up 9 bands before starting their tenth loop and then returning to finish; Full marathoners did 19 bands before starting their twentieth loop to cover the 26.2 miles.

Victory Headstand!
I completed the course in 2:15:55, and was happy to have completed my first ever "looped" course.  It was a unique experience; with all the out-and-backs, we were able to see many other runners and give out high fives as we passed each other.  Later that afternoon, after some much needed lunch, we caravanned to New Paltz, New York, where the last day of the series was being held.  I didn't run in the race but stuck around to cheer folks on with a "only Jim Diego would do this" Twerk Station alongside the course.  That was a lot of fun... until my portable speaker ran out of juice after only one hour of cheering.

I could tell that the runners who had been here for the course of the week had definitely made a bond with each other - which gave me an "itch" to want to do one of these series in the future!

Real nice bling to add to my collection!!
New Paltz shenanigans... my twerk station!
After New Paltz with Donna and Kristi!
The family as we're back in NYC to see Laura off at LGA!

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