Being nomads with a short attention span, it’s not often that we run the same race twice. Frankly, we rarely return to the same time twice. But with family in New Hampshire and New Jersey, the odds are slightly higher on races in those areas. So I’ve run the Philadelphia Marathon twice, a couple of family Christmas trips to Savannah allowed to runnings of the Savannah Bridge Run Double Pump, and, well, that’s about it for repeat offenders. So since our three weeks to New Hampshire coincided with this year’s D.A.R.E. Classic, we sweet talked my in-laws in to making an evening of it.
The D.A.R.E. Classic is one of those races run by smart people who realize that sometimes having a novelty destination where you wouldn’t normally get to run can help increase your numbers. In this case, it’s on the racetrack at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH.
Also helping their numbers: fundraising for the State Police. And probably the large catering sponsored by Hannaford Supermarkets open to both runners and spectators. Oh, and K-9 demonstrations starring Diablo and Gator.
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In the two years between events, I can’t say with absolute certainty how new compares to prior, but I think for the most part things went very similarly. There was definitely confusion about where the starting line is, and the race officials backed us all up several times before getting everyone in the right place and facing the the right direction. Someone needs to offer a big “START” banner to the State Police.
As last time, the race consists of two laps, first around a majority of the race track, then off up a hill and and around the motorcycle course, back on the main track, past the finish line and around it all again. Sounds confusing? It is. Especially with a lack of volunteers out on the course. I think there were more people out there last time, but I could be making that up. The leaders follow a pair of motorcycle cops and everyone else follows them. As part of the faster midpackers, that leaves me in one of those challenging spots where keeping an eye on the guy ahead of me is pretty tough. I managed, though, and tried to hold my own, managing a 19:56 finish, almost a minute off my PR from earlier in the summer, good for 13th place overall and 5th in my age group1. Not too shabby considering I had run 8 miles that morning so as not to sabotage my marathon training plan…
Post-race, I tracked down my family, congratulated a friend who was running with her Hannaford store team2, and sought out some fruit at the magnificent smorgasbord of fruit, pizza, yogurt, and burgers. The race is always held on the first Wednesday in August, which this year worked out to the third, which is National Watermelon Day. Mmmmmm, watermelon. Every race should have watermelon. Watermelon and breakfast burritos, in fact, would be the perfect post-race array. It would be like merging Texas and New Hampshire, which in itself might be quite interesting. Toss in some small batch ice cream and craft beers (i.e. Vermont and Washington) and I think there’d be more people running in this country.
But I digress!3 Once everyone is off the course, they start the massive raffle. Partially because they’re the State Police, and partially because Concord has a really good local merchant community, there are tons of merchandise giveaways donated by local businesses. Last time we stuck it out for the whole thing, which was a good way to kill some time, but really overwhelmingly boring. The Running Nuns out in Portsmouth, by contrast, do all the drawings by bib number while you’re out running and racers just check to see if they’ve won something when they finish. Much more efficient. I understand the desire to get people to stick around for the awards by offering a little incentive afterwards, but with tons of merch this gets a little out of control. They need to find a balance4.
Having had past knowledge of the raffle duration and being transient folks who live in an RV and don’t really need/want more stuff, we skipped the raffle this year and headed to Boloco for dinner5 because they’re awesome. Which, as it turns out, is also where the K9 guys from the State Police went with their families as soon as they could sneak away.
All in all, the D.A.R.E. Classic is an awesome event, though there are some things I’d like to see them do better. Or at least differently. Maybe I’m in the minority here. It’s definitely a great late summer family event and they really handle the kids run well and provide an activity area/corral for kids while their parents are racing. Plus, what kid doesn’t love Daren the D.A.R.E. lion?
The law enforcement challenge is a great inclusion, not only because the event supports the State Police but because it adds an element of team versus team excitement to the spectator aspect. Not to mention the draw of different groups in the area to come prove themselves. Be aware; do not mess with the Maine Game Wardens. Those guys are BIG and FAST. And probably pretty good shots, too, though they don’t race with guns.
My wife and I have definitely taken a liking to a few weeks in the late summer at a rental house on a New Hampshire lake. So, if this becomes a habit6 the D.A.R.E. Classic could become my first-ever three time race. Maybe I can take off another four seconds next year. That’d be fancy.
- Incidentally, that’s the same age group finish position, but four seconds faster and four overall positions ahead of my 2009 finish. Not a great improvement, but an improvement. ↩
- Not quite as overt as the law enforcement challenge is the team challenge, which is mostly taken up by law enforcement teams and all the different Hannaford stores within a reasonable distance from Loudon competing against one another. My friend is a nutritionist that gives “eat this, not that” type tours and lectures at the Londonderry Hannaford, so she joined the team and managed to win her age group! ↩
- What else is new? ↩
- Maybe save a small handful of the big ticket items for a post-awards drawing? ↩
- If you think their logo looks familiar, you’ve probably seen a Currito Burrito, or worse yet, a Currito Cantina. This, unfortunately, is their brilliant idea to expand beyond New England with a franchising approach, which has resulted mostly in abominations vaguely resembling burritos in airports and mall food courts, assembled employees who can barely walk upright. Quite different than the real thing, and quite obvious why they didn’t use the same brand! ↩
- As our budget planning is trying to do… ↩